Alaska seafood looks to international market to expand value

 Black Cod in China (KTUU)
Black Cod in China (KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: Apr. 29, 2019 at 5:53 PM AKDT
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After a year where Chinese tariffs injected uncertainty and caution into the global trading market, Alaska seafood companies are gearing up to expand business at the largest seafood trade exhibition in the world.

Eighteen Alaska seafood businesses will be represented at the Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium next week. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute facilitates the presence Alaska companies have at the expo.

"Every year is different and we're always dealing with interesting market challenges," ASMI International Marketing Director Hannah Lindoff said. "Last year was a successful year. We suffered in the export world a little bit with the strength of the dollar, and we've seen some of that even out of course this year. We've had a lot of trade issues so I think you'll see that ripple effect in Europe as well."

More than half of Alaska's seafood is exported. Last year's exports totaled $3.3 billion.

China is the largest importer of Alaskan products, so trade tensions with the country have made their mark on the industry.

"It's an important market for reprocessing, but it's also a growing end market. You have a growing middle class in China that is eager to consume safe, pure, clean products like Alaska seafood, so certainly having a trade disruption in that market has made things difficult. There are certain products that have felt the effects more than others, but it's been significant," Lindoff said.

Lindoff says Black Cod, or Sablefish, is now the most expensive fish in Chinese markets because of the tariffs.

The expo in Brussels comes just before the salmon season and gives seafood companies a glimpse of the season ahead. Lindoff says it generally is an optimistic environment.

"We collected 170 trade leads from 40 countries and our co-exhibitors saw $88 million in on-site sales with $809 million in projected sales from the event," Lindoff said of last year's expo.

Lindoff says entering new markets in places such as Eastern Europe and South America will be important for the Alaska seafood industry moving forward.

"The thing about Alaska seafood is we have a diverse product mix. So there's always some products that people are feeling more optimistic about and others that people are worried about, and I'm sure after the show that will still be the case," Lindoff said.

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