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Newsletter February 2015

Flemish fish…processed in Flanders? The Flemish fishing sector and the fish processing industry

Most of the fish caught in the North Sea is not processed in Belgium, but rather in the Netherlands or even as far away as Morocco. Local processing of fish products could result in added value for both the Flemish fishermen and the fish processing industry. ILVO will make a roadmap of the needs, challenges and opportunities related to technology, quality, safety and logistics. In this process, ILVO will offer scientific and technical advice related to potential innovations.

processing Flemish fishThe majority of plaice (the most important species in terms of landed weight) currently goes to the Netherlands for processing. According to fishing sector representatives (producer organisations, policymakers, representatives of the processing industry, fish auctions, retail, etc.) local processing of fishery products creates added value. This could result in a price premium for both the fishermen and the fish-processing industry. Low market prices arise from the mixed nature of Flemish fisheries. Not all landed species are equally desirable, resulting in low market prices for some species (e.g. lesser spotted dogfish, pouting, gurnard). Creating new markets through local processing could thus not only result in a higher income, but could also valorise byproducts such as unmarketable or undesirable landings. Diversifying the processing industry in Flanders by adding local processing operations that are flexible towards seasonal variations in landings may help to find a better match between demand and supply. The wider fishing sector says that it is unclear to what extent there is an actual need for new processing opportunities, which possibilities are readily available and which have to be developed. This study aims to clarify those questions, set up the relevant sectoral networks and facilitate and organise concrete actions.

We will use two strategies to do this. The first strategy (the so-called “push” strategy) is to inventory of existing initiatives and identify the needs and wants in the fisheries industry. This is on the supply side of the equation – what types of seafood are being provided and when? The results will be interpreted in relation to seasonal differences in landings in order to identify new opportunities. In order to gain insight into the pricing process, we will also study purchasing behavior. We will map the need for new processing opportunities and whether they can create added value through diversification, both in terms of bulk processing and processing for niche markets. The second strategy is the “pull”, the identification of the needs and desires of the fish processing industry. This mainly deals with demand, in which the current fish processing industry will be mapped in the same way as the fisheries sector. The hindrances related to technology, quality and safety will be identified through interviews. The findings resulting from these interviews will be measured and monitored in a couple of companies (microbiological, physicochemical and technological measurements). New opportunities and innovative techniques that increase processing efficiency, safety or product quality will be suggested and developed where needed.

During these research phases, we will bring together representatives from the fishing industry and the processing industry with the aim to identify opportunities for cooperation. This will hopefully result in a lasting network for intersectoral cooperation in which ILVO will play a facilitating role. The logistical aspects, the economic and technical feasibility and the added value of suggested initiatives will be evaluated against current and future national and European policies. In addition to the inventories of the current situation, the project aims to offer a roadmap with opportunities for innovation that can lead to a win-win collaboration between the fishing sector and the local processing industry.

Title: Processing Flemish fish in Flanders? The Flemish fishing sector and the fish processing industry: state, needs and opportunities
Funding: De Europese Commissie (EVF – Europees Visserijfonds), De Vlaamse overheid (FIVA – Financieringsinstrument voor de Vlaamse Visserij- en Aquacultuursector)
Term: 10/1/2014 – 11/15/2015
Contact: Els Vanderperren, Els Torreele, Geertrui Vlaemynck