GLOBEFISH - Information and Analysis on World Fish Trade

Lower imports from traditional markets and canned tuna producers



Catches of skipjack in the main fishing grounds improved during the first quarter of the year, leading to a slight ease in prices. Import demand for processed and canned tuna remained mixed in both traditional and emerging markets.


During the first quarter of the year, fishing in the Western and Central Pacific improved. In the Eastern Pacific, skipjack catches improved while for yellowfin were worse. As a result, yellowfin prices grew more markedly in that region while skipjack prices increased only marginally.
In the Indian Ocean, fishing has been moderate with landings consisting primarily of skipjack. With slight weakening of skipjack prices in this side of the world, raw material inventories during the first quarter period in Thailand increased moderately both through imports as well as carriers arriving in Bangkok. From January-March 2016, the average import price of skipjack was 6.3% lower than last year's. Frozen tuna import volumes into Thailand increased by 8% to total 125 600 tonnes against 120 000 tonnes in the same period in 2015. However, import volumes of yellowfin and albacore declined by 35% and 28% respectively at 21 500 tonnes and 7 000 tonnes compared with the same period last year.
Fishing in the Atlantic Ocean continues at a low-to-moderate rate, while raw material inventories at local canneries are at low levels. Skipjack and yellowfin prices continue their upward trend due to short supplies from Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
Indonesia reported improved domestic catches of pole and h line caught skipjack since the first quarter of this year as a result of the government's measures to combat IUU fishing by foreign fishing vessels. Price of pole and line skipjack has a premium price at USD 1 700-1 800 per tonne, FOB Indonesia, which is USD 200 per tonne higher than purse seine caught skipjack. The main fishing areas for pole and line fishing are the eastern part of Indonesia, namely North Sulawesi, South of Sulawesi, Maluku and East Flores.
Canned tuna production in Ecuador, the largest supplier to the European market, was lower in May following the earthquake in mid-April. The canneries in Manta were kept closed for two weeks as many workers went back home to be with their family members following the quake. In addition, the port infrastructure at Manta was directly impacted, which made it impossible to land raw material for the canneries. Combined with a scarcity of tuna arrivals from the Eastern Pacific, this situation is pushing prices upwards.

Non-canned tuna markets (fresh and frozen)

Last year's positive trend for the USA's non-canned tuna trade persisted through the first quarter of 2016 with higher imports reported. In Japan, the first quarter generated some optimism for the sashimi trade. After four years of a continuous lull in imports, Japanese air-flown tuna imports increased by 4% during the January-March period compared with the same period a year ago.
In China, import demand for sashimi grade bigeye and bluefin tuna plummeted sharply due to shrinking consumer demand and the weak Chinese currency against the US dollar. Fresh salmon use remains strong in the sashimi trade.

US-non canned tuna imports totaled 12 100 tonnes during the first quarter of this year, against the 11 700 tonnes of imports during the same period last year. Supplies consisted of fresh airflown tuna, frozen whole/dressed tuna and fresh/frozen fillets. There were increased imports of high quality bluefin tuna from Mexico and Spain as well as southern bluefin from the Pacific, meant for sushi and sashimi usages. During this period, imports of whole/dressed fresh and frozen yellowfin as well as frozen tuna fillets increased. Indeed, more than 6 000 tonnes of frozen tuna fillets were imported during January-March 2016 (+1.6%). Supplies increased from the Philippines, Viet Nam, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives but declined from Indonesia, the leading exporter.

On 5 January, Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market witnessed the last auction of the most expensive local bluefin tuna of the year at USD 118 000 (fish weight of 200 kg). This was the last New Year auction trade in this market as Tokyo's wholesale fish operations will move to the newly established Toyosu fish market in October. 
In general, imports of fresh and frozen tuna destined for the sashimi trade in Japan increased during January-March 2016. Compared with the first quarter of 2015, supplies of whole/dressed fresh yellowfin and bluefin, frozen bigeye and frozen yellowfin were higher.
Frozen bluefin and bigeye fillet imports also increased during the reporting period. Total imports of deep frozen (at -60°C) tuna fillets were slightly lower at 12 300 tonnes, (-4%) due to reduced catches of bluefin and yellowfin. However, imports of popular bigeye fillet (redmeat quality) increased by 34%.
Consumer demand for sashimi tuna in Japan was better during this year's spring festival months from April-May, which is one of the highest sales periods for sashimi tuna in Japan.

Canned Tuna

Lower prices of raw material supported export growth of canned tuna from most of the producing countries in the first quarter of the year. Among the top six global exporters of canned and prepared tuna, exports from Thailand increased marginally (+1%). By the end of May however, frozen skipjack prices for delivery from the Western Pacific to Thailand had stopped falling.
In Spain, canned tuna exports demonstrated strong growth for the first quarter of 2016, increasing by 20% compared with the same time period last year. Spanish supplies increased to EU-markets as well as to the Middle East and North Africa. Other EU canned tuna producers, namely Italy and Portugal, also reported higher sales by 13% and 7.5% respectively. Exports from France declined by 4%.
Among the top six global exporters of canned/processed tuna, there was a 19% rise in exports from Ecuador and 12% from China during the first quarter of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015. The first two months export data on Indonesia implied a 13% rise and but a 23% drop from the Philippines.

Lower prices seem to have induced import demand for canned/processed tuna in some EU markets, but the trends were negative in the North American markets of the USA (-14.5%) and Canada (-10%). In Asia/Pacific, imports increased in Japan and New Zealand but declined in Australia. There were higher imports to Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North African markets during the first quarter of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015. In Latin America, canned tuna imports increased in Argentina, Peru, Chile, but declined in Brazil.

The US canned tuna market has been holding enough inventories from last year, which resulted in falling import volumes despite the continuous ease in prices. Indeed, total Imports of prepared and canned tuna in the USA was 7% lower during the first quarter of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015. Among the top six sources, supplies declined from all but Viet Nam and Mexico. Total imports of canned/processed tuna were comprised of 10 500 tonnes of tuna in pouch, 17 120 tonnes of cooked loin with the balance (14 580 tonnes) being made up of canned tuna. The imports of higher value tuna in pouch increased by 3.7% compared with the same period a year ago, while for cooked loins, imports declined by 12.7%.

The negative import trend for EU canned and processed tuna in 2015 reversed somewhat during the first quarter of 2016. Imports totaled 124 000 tonnes, which is nearly 6% higher than the same period last year. This was mainly due to the significant supply surge from a single source, Ecuador, which increased its exports to the EU by 1%. Ecuador's total volume to the EU comprised a 26% share in total imports of canned/proceed tuna from non-EU countries and demonstrated supply growth to most of the important EU markets.
Also during this period imports of canned and processed tuna increased from Thailand by 4%, from the Seychelles (+20%) and from Ghana (+21%). Among the top ten extra-EU suppliers, volumes declined from Mauritius (-3%), China (-40%), the Philippines (-42%) and Viet Nam (-20%).
Among the individual EU markets, canned and processed tuna imports increased into Spain, with its total volume consisting mostly of cooked loins for reprocessing. For direct consumption, the UK imported 3.5% more, while Germany reported lower imports (-7%).

An important observation for the first quarter of 2016 is the increased demand of higher value canned tuna in the intra-EU market, which is generally supplied by EU canners in Spain, France, Italy and Portugal. Exports of this Spanish origin higher value product within the EU increased by nearly 17% in quantity and by more than 7% in value to total 31 200 tonnes valued at USD 155.2 million during January-March this year.

Other markets
In the Asia/Pacific region, other important trade trends in the canned tuna market during the first quarter of the year included Japanese imports increasing reasonably by 14% to total 14 100 tonnes with growing supplies from Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, China and Viet Nam. Nearly 1 500 tonnes of these were cooked/dried katsuobushi products. In Australia, imports weakened by 15.5% to total 11 300 tonnes, with Thailand taking a 91% market share.
Canned tuna imports increased in New Zealand, Taiwan Province of China, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka during the January-March 2016 period. Export data from Thailand also indicated better sales opportunities of canned tuna destined to the Middle East.

he report analyses the tuna market situation over the period January-July 2016 



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