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Many of world's leading seafood executives gather at Luxembourg meeting to talk shop.

Many of World's Leading Seafood Executives Gather at Luxembourg Meeting to Talk Shop

While attendance figures were down for the fourteenth annual International Seafood Conference, it was by no means unsuccessful. Held in Luxembourg Oct. 6-9, some 172 companies from 32 countries were represented by 320 delegates. Registrations were off by about 20%, due primarily to a drop from the USA -- where the economic recession has hit the seafood sector especially hard. Nevertheless, the presence of top level industry leaders was testimony to the meeting's importance in the overall scheme of things.

Before the Luxembourg gathering, a pre-conference tour took place in Iceland. About 20 people took part. It was a shame that more did not take advantage of such an opportunity to get an inside view of Iceland's fishing industry. The North Atlantic island is quite unique in that 80% of its economy revolves around the seafood business.

The Export Council of Iceland hosted a seminar which touched on many facets of the industry. Vihjalmur Guomundsson, export manager, advised that seafood accounts for over 50% of the country's total earnings, hitting $1.2 billion in 1990. Most of the product is frozen, with fresh exports representing 17.6%.

In the past Iceland was largely dependent on sales to the United States. Now, however, due to the relatively low value of the dollar as well as changes in the North American market, the emphasis has shifted to Europe. Previously taking up to 40% of the total catch, the USA today absorbs only about 10% while EEC countries receive nearly 70%. The United Kingdom is Iceland's most important market, with Germany and the USA respectively ranking second and third. France, though, is expected to take over the number three slot this year. The Japanese market has remained fairly constant.

Faced with lower quotas and increased competition, Icelanders have turned to quality improvements and increased automation in an effort to gain greater profitability. New standards, based upon those used by the Japanese, are now being proposed for every facet of the industry. Of Iceland's 100 freezing plants, over 40% now have fully integrated computer systems designed to enhance quality standards and weight control.

One of the leaders in this field is the Marel equipment company, which hosted a reception following the Export Council seminar. Established in 1983, it manufactures graders, production control systems, and scales for use both on-and off-shore. Marel marine scales, built for duty on trawlers in rough waters, are said to be accurate within plus or minus 2% regardless of environmental conditions. The rugged equipment is exported to 25 countries.

A reception on Sunday night, Oct. 6, kicked off the 1991 International Seafood Conference in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It was followed by three days of speeches and panel discussions, many of which are reported on elsewhere in this issue.

The state of the industry address was given by Victor L. Young, chairman of Fishery Products International. Starting off with some sobering facts about the current seafood supply situation, he said it is unlikely to expect any significant increase in wild seafood resources between now and the year 2000.

The rest of the talk was devoted to suggesting ways in which companies could sustain growth and development, given the gloomy supply outlook. Young's main emphasis was on how processors could take advantage of today's consumer-driven market.

Other presentations centered around surimi, aquaculture, shrimp and retail merchandising. As always, the groundfish panel discussion was well attended. Predictions were made regarding quotas, resource estimates and price trends for various species harvested around the world.

On Tuesday afternoon, delegates toured the new La Provencale wholesale company in Luxembourg. Expecting to see a small regional distributor, many were amazed to find a large, modern operation efficiently handling a wide variety of products. With trade barriers coming down throughout much of Europe at the end of 1992, La Provencale hopes to take advantage of its central location to distribute to a wide range of markets on the continent.

Two "Seafood Leader of the World Awards" were presented at the conference. Given in recognition of long-term contributions to the international seafood industry, the recipients were Leiv Birkeland, director of Frionor A/S. Norway, and Gudjon Olafsson, former head of Samband of Iceland.

Regardless of economic conditions, the International Seafood Conference will always attract a high level of industry leaders. By combining just the right blend of speech making with ample time for private business meetings and socializing, Bob Erkins' organization has hit upon a formula which works.

The next meeting will take place Nov. 1-4, 1992. Lisbon, Portugal, is the tentative venue.

PHOTO : Accepting a "Seafood Leader of the World" award on behalf of Gudjon Olafsson is Benedikt Sveinsson (l), president of Iceland Seafood International Ltd. Making the presentation is Bob Erkins.

PHOTO : International Seafood Conference organizer Bob Erkins (l) presents a "Seafood Leader of the World" award to Leiv Birkeland, director of Frionor A/S, Norway.
COPYRIGHT 1992 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Author:Williams, Andrew H.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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