Alaskan cod dish. (Photo: ASMI)
Alaska seafood sets eyes on China, Brazil
Friday, July 13, 2012, 00:10 (GMT + 9)
Alaska’s seafood industry may soon expand its presence in two of the world's fastest-growing economies: China and Brazil.
Alaska’s seafood exports rocketed by 35 per cent in value in 2011 to USD 2.5 billion, and this year the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) wants to sell even more seafood in Asia, Europe and South America, The Cordova Times reports.
ASMI is focusing on Brazil, which harvests very little seafood of its own, said Jose Madeira, head of the institute's new office in Sao Paolo.
One opportunity is bacalao -- hardy dried and salted cod – as Brazil is the world's largest consumer of the product and prefers the whiter bacalao made from Pacific cod, which mainly comes from Alaska.
Portuguese salteries, which make the most highly prized bacalao, process Norwegian and Alaskan cod before shipping it to Brazil. Processors are interested because they can sell Alaska bacalao at a premium, Madeira said, Alaska Dispatch reports.
"So on the packaging there would be information saying it's from Alaska and why it's such a great food," said Joe Jacobson, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s international marketing director.
Madeira also thinks salmon could have huge growth. But Brazil imports 99 per cent of its salmon farmed from Chile. ASMI, through seminars and advertising, hopes to convince Brazilians that the Alaska wild variety is superior.
But selling Alaska salmon in Brazil could take years because Brazilian stores can easily buy the cheaper farmed salmon from Chile. Still, some say wild sockeye salmon could quickly become popular because its vibrant red flesh stands out.
Other opportunities there include selling more salmon roe and pollock, Jacobson said.
Most of the Alaska seafood consumed in Brazil might be partially processed in Alaska before being exported to places like China, which imports massive amounts of Alaska seafood that it repackages and exports.
Alaskan companies could not easily sell seafood directly to Brazil, said Jacobson, because of the enormous cost of power in rural areas, and Alaska processors cannot afford to store large quantities of frozen fish for long. Much of it is thus immediately exported to processors.
"Reducing energy costs would probably be the single most beneficial thing to our industry," he added.
ASMI hopes to increase direct Alaska exports to other countries by convincing buyers that purchasing seafood directly that is only frozen once makes for a higher-quality product.
Alaska pink and chum salmon processed in China, packaged and shipped abroad helped grow seafood exports to that country from USD 613 million in 2010 to USD 939 million in 2011 -- up 53 per cent.
Wild and sustainable Alaska salmon was in high demand by processors, which helped spark a bidding war that drove up prices, Jacobson commented.
Exports of Alaska fish with their heads on have increased for high-value products such as yellowfin sole. ASMI is working to convince chefs that properly frozen and handled seafood can be as good as fresh.
By Natalia Real