€1bn Irish seafood sector targets innovative food for further growth

Ireland is looking to be a global leader in high-quality, sustainably produced seafood in order to take a greater share of the international market and expand its €1bn annual contribution to the economy.

The Irish seafood industry employs more than 11,000 workers, directly and indirectly, largely in coastal communities and plays an important role in supporting rural communities, according to a new report released by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

Despite accounting for a just small amount of the global seafood industry, the sector in Ireland is looking to develop innovative ways of adding value to its products and satisfying increasing international demand.

“Seafood is on trend globally. Although Ireland is a small player on the international stage, our industry vision for Ireland is to be the international leader in high-value differentiated seafood products that satisfy growing domestic and international demand for nutritious, safe, responsibly and sustainably produced food.

“When you consider that fish landings and seafood farming contribute nearly €500m alone before any value is added through processing and innovation, we have an exciting opportunity for considerable growth,” said BIM chief executive Tara McCarthy.

BIM’s Business of Seafood report highlights the value of the industry with €344m worth of fish arriving into Irish fishing ports each year in addition to the €148m worth of fish and shellfish farmed around the Irish coast.

Irish seafood exports expanded 7% to €564m in 2015 while domestic consumption increased 6% to €350m.

The report was released in advance of BIM’s National Seafood Conference which takes place in Galway today and is expected to attract more than 300 Irish and international delegates.

Industry leader and former director of the Harvard Business School agribusiness programme Mary Shelman said Ireland must focus on value rather than volume to set itself apart internationally.

“Irish seafood is an excellent product but its true value is not appreciated,” she said.

“I see BIM as the catalyst of change with a greater focus on transforming the agenda from short-term to long-term thinking, production-driven to market-driven and from scale to value creation.

"Ireland is too small to compete on scale, we need to box clever and this includes working together effectively to increase individual profitability and market share.”


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