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Soft demand, supply problems tackled at international seafood conference.

Soft Demand, Supply Problems Tackled at International Seafood Conference

Facing depressed global movement, Nestle Norge president says 'bottom has gone out of the market.' Two to three more years of 'rough sailing' forecast for industry. Still, optimism prevails. The 11th International Seafood Conference held in Amsterdam Oct. 23-26 was, by all accounts, a great success. The annual meeting, which is run by Bob Erkins and his wife, Barnee, attracted over 430 industry leaders and their spouses representing 250 companies from 34 countries.

The conference began with a "Salute to Holland" reception at the Maritime Museum, hosted by the Dutch National Fishbureau, the Dutch Fishing Industry and its allied industries. An opening speech was given by Robert Carp of the National Visbureau, and attendees enjoyed Dutch seafood and other specialties.

Monday morning saw the start of three days of speeches and panel discussions with afternoons being left free to conduct business or go on industry tours. Most important remarks are presented in condensed form on the following pages of this magazine.

A rather sobering state of the industry address was given by Pierre Goetschi, president of A/S Nestle Norge, Norway. Citing weak demand due to price resistance on the part of consumers, he stated that the "bottom has gone out of the market.

Problems were also cited on the resource side with cod stocks in the Northeast Atlantic at only one-third of what was expected a year ago. In summation, it was predicted that some global markets will remain depressed for another one or two years.

In spite of the gloomy picture painted by Mr. Goetschi, the general mood of the conference was very upbeat. Overall, there was considerably more optimism about the seafood industry than this writer has witnessed in the past year.

As always, costs and quality were major topics of conversation. William Diederich, vice president of purchasing for Van de Kamp's, spoke of consumer price resistance and the need for consistent quality at steady market prices. He asked for the trade as a whole"to think in terms of reasonable profits, not greed."

Ron Cegnar of the Long John Silver's (LJS) restaurant chain also spoke of rising consumer resistance. During the spring quarter, seafood restaurant traffic in North America declined 6% due to price increases. Cegnar explained that the average check for fish and seafood was now $3.88 compared with $2.37 for hamburger meals, $2.72 for Mexican fare, $3.23 for chicken dishes, and $3.69 for pizza. LJS and many other seafood franchises have lowered profit margins to maintain customer volume, so the $3.88 amount is not reflective of the true costs involved.

As cod prices have risen, chains have substituted other white fish and promoted menu items such as chicken and salads. Ironically, chicken -- seafood's No. 1 rival in the protein wars, now represents 18% of LJS sales.

It is unusually rare for industries in free market countries to ask for imposed governmental regulation. However, Lee Weddig, executive vice president of the U.S. National Fisheries Institute, called for mandatory fish inspection in his talk. Citing the bad press that seafood has recently received, he stated that this would create pressure from consumer groups and focus political attention on the industry. Weddig went on to explain that maintaining consumer confidence was crucial to the industry's health, and noted that he expected legislation to be introduced in the U.S. Congress this month(January).

An important development which took place before the Amsterdam conference opened was reported on by Yoshihide Uchimura, president of the Japan Fisheries Association. In meetings on Friday and Saturday, a new organization called the International Coalition of Fisheries Associations (ICFA) was formally announced. Initially made up of the Japan Fisheries Association, the Korea Deep Sea Fisheries Association, the U.S. National Fisheries Institute, the Fisheries Council of Canada and the Taiwan Deep Sea Tuna Boatowners and Exporters Association, the purpose of the organization is to provide a common voice for commercial fishermen on international issues.

ICFA actually was formed in 1987 when a preliminary meeting was held at the International Seafood Conference in Monaco. This year, by-laws were ratified and officers were elected. Ron Bulmer of the Fisheries Council of Canada is chairman, Mr. Uchimura is vice chairman and Lee Weddig of the NFI is secretary.

ICFA will address issues concerning recreational fishing, pollution, whaling and the need to manage marine mammal stocks. The organization's views will be presented to governments around the world whenever issues concerning commercial fisheries arise.

Fishing trade associations from all countries are invited to join ICFA, and Bob Erkins has offered to receive information. Readers are asked to provide names, addresses and contacts for fishery associations in their countries in care of The Erkins Seafood Letter, P.O. Box 108, Bliss, Idaho 83314 U.S.A.

Several interesting industry tours were provided and the ISC proved to be an ideal showcase for the Dutch fishing industry.

On Monday afternoon, a trip was made to the Baarssen fish processing plant in Urk. The facility has been fully automated with equipment provided by Meyn Fishing Processing.

On Tuesday, Koppens Machine-fabriek hosted a tour of its modern manufacturing factory and research institute. The firm specializes in developing equipment and methods of processing, breading, freezing and forming fish products.

Other tours were conducted to the fish auction at Scheveningen and the fishing port and research station at Ijmuiden.

The Conference ended Wednesday night with a reception and gala dinner at the Koepelzaal, a seventeenth century church which has been converted into a congress and cultural center.

It must be said that the International Seafood Conference is definitely the premier event for the world fishing industry. The conference attracts industry leaders from all over the world, and the speeches and panels are informative. Much credit must be given to the Erkins family and staff for putting together an excellent program and managing a well-run event.

At this writing, definite dates have not been set for the 1989 ISC, but it will take place during the second week of October at the Hotel Don Carlos, Marbella, Spain.

Royal Greenland-Proeks Restructures Management

The Proeks Group, fisheries arm of the Greenland Home Rule government, and known abroad as the Royal Greenland Group, has been given its own independent board of directors.

Lars Emil Johansen is chairman of the new board, with Ole Ramlau-Hansen serving under it as managing director. Previously, the Proeks Group was under the Minister of Fisheries, who served as group chairman.

Ramlau-Hansen was previously managing director of Godthaab Fiske Industri. Reporting to him are three divisional managing directors: Janus Norberg for GHT (trawlers), Kjeld Holmstrup for KTU (production) and Bjarti Mohr for Royal Greenland (sales and marketing).

Norberg was formerly production manager with KTU. Holmstrup was with P. Taabbel & Co. in Denmark, and Mohr was managing director of Faroe Seafoods in Denmark. Gorm Fabian, from MD Foods in Denmark, has joined Royal Greenland as sales and marketing director.

Subsidiaries in the U.K., West Germany and Japan are headed by Roy West, Volker Schroeter and Takaaki Shimoda.

PHOTO : Robert and Barnee Erkins, ISC organizers, at the Amsterdam event's closing night

PHOTO : reception.
COPYRIGHT 1989 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:International Seafood Conference
Author:Williams, Andrew
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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