Experts: Opportunities Abound for Seafood Exports to Europe

New Bedford Economic Development Council
Export specialists urged New Bedford seafood suppliers to capitalize on the demand in European markets for products such as live lobster, squid, scallops and mackerel.
During a November 2 seminar held at the New Bedford Economic Development Council, over 50 participants learned about seafood export opportunities as well as the complex regulatory requirements and other challenges involved in sending U.S. seafood overseas. The event was sponsored by the Massachusetts Export Center and Food Export USA-Northeast.
International speakers noted that there are markets for live lobster, squid and scallops in Spain and Italy, while Portugal is looking for mackerel, squid and lobster. In France, high demand exists for frozen or fresh U.S. scallops.
According to Michael Sullivan, Massachusetts Export Center’s trade advisor, the workshop was significant because it enabled current and potential exporters to make connections with leading authorities at state and federal agencies that are available to assist them with the process.
Speakers included Stephane Vrignaud, a U.S. Department of Commerce fishery trade specialist to the European Union and David McClellan, in-market representative for Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece at Food Export U.S.A.-Northeast. Nelly Masson, also on the panel, is that organization’s in-market representative for France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
“They are excellent resources because they study the seafood markets for U.S. producers and are able to provide that `on the ground’ connection to understanding and reflecting on the regulations for the products,” Sullivan said.
He added that although the countries are in the European Union, the international market distribution method from one country to the next often varies. The specialists in each country can address those distinctions.
Participants were advised on the steps necessary to become an approved supplier and get placed on the EU list as well as how to meet standards and carry out a successful transaction with guaranteed payment, Sullivan said. Export financing and insurance products were also described.
Odile Texier, chairperson of France’s National Association of Foreign Trade for Frozen Food Products, is open to expanding imports from the U.S. but emphasized that strict monitoring and `best practices,’ are crucial.
“There’s great demand in Europe for seafood and species coming from the North Atlantic,” Sullivan said. “It presents a profitable opportunity for local traders. The price levels are higher in Europe and the current exchange rate makes U.S. seafood more affordable.”
According to Paula Murphy, director of the Massachusetts Export Center, New Bedford is already a global seafood industry leader in terms of landings and there are numerous opportunities for local companies to either expand their sales internationally or for smaller seafood firms to begin exporting.
“Seafood represents the ninth largest export industry in Massachusetts and growth in our seafood export sales has consistently outpaced the state’s export performance overall in recent years,” Murphy said. “Last year, Massachusetts exported more than $386,000 in seafood to global markets. These numbers are largely dominated by lobsters and scallops, but other species such as dogfish and mackerel recently have seen significant growth as well.”
Mayor Scott Lang and New Bedford Economic Development Council Director Matthew Morrissey spoke optimistically about the possibilities of increased seafood exports to Europe.
Mayor Scott W. Lang and New Bedford Economic Development Council executive director, Matthew A. Morrissey, both spoke enthusiastically.
“The City of New Bedford is doing everything we can to support our seafood industry, whether it’s advocating for a more scientific based approach to federal regulations or looking for new ways to expand market opportunities for our products,” said Mayor Lang.
For more information, companies can contact the Massachusetts Export Center’s New Bedford office located at the New Bedford Chamber of Commerce at 508-999-1388.
Murphy added that the Massachusetts Export Center, Food Export USA and the International Trade Assistance Center historically collaborate in hosting a delegation of seafood buyers in New Bedford each spring concurrent to the Boston International Seafood Show. “This is a great way for New Bedford seafood companies to link with international buyers right at home,” Murphy said.

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