GLOBEFISH - Information and Analysis on World Fish Trade

Global market trends for raw and processed tuna remained uncertain throughout 2016


Demand was slow in the traditional canned tuna markets worldwide during January–September 2016, which led to lower imports in the western markets. Developing markets in the Middle East, East Asia and Latin America, however, maintained reasonable canned tuna import growth during the review period. Raw material prices, particularly for skipjack, weakened during October-November 2016. However, from December 2016, both skipjack and yellowfin prices started to move up, as supply recovery remains slow and demand improved in the traditional markets.


The fish aggregating device (FAD) fishing closure in the Western Central Pacific (WCP) ran from July to October 2016, however, even after reopening, fishing remained slow. Frozen inventories in Thai canneries were more than adequate, as there were strong arrivals from the Indian Ocean during the WCP FAD closing period. Lack of demand has pushed skipjack prices down to US$1 400 per tonne, cost and freight (CFR) Thailand in November 2016, though this is still US$300–400 higher than in November 2015. Prices have started to move up in early December 2016.

In the Eastern Pacific, the second fishing ban (veda) began on 18 November 2016 and will go through 31 January 2017. Catches of skipjack have been moderate but poor for yellowfin. Prices are weakening for both because of sufficient raw material stocks with canneries in Ecuador.
Catches have declined in the Indian Ocean to a moderate level where regional canneries are holding ample stocks of frozen raw material. Trans-shipment activities remain high to Thailand and higher offers from Bangkok have driven prices up for both skipjack and yellowfin.

Fishing in the Atlantic Ocean has been moderate-to-poor and raw material inventories at local canneries have fallen to moderate levels. Subsequently, skipjack and yellowfin prices have increased.
Lower catches in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans have pushed up the European prices for skipjack and yellowfin. The price of semi-processed, double-cleaned and cooked yellowfin loins has stayed stable at a high level.

Fresh and frozen tuna market (non-canned)

Trade summary

Demand for non-canned tuna was positive both in the Japanese and US markets during the first nine months of 2016 with imports increasing during this period compared with the same time in 2015. Fresh tuna imports increased by 11 percent into Japan, while US imports increased by 4 percent. Import demand for frozen tuna fillets (which have longer shelf life), increased also in both markets.


In contrast to the declining canned tuna demand, the positive market trends persisted for non-canned tuna products during 2016 in the USA. The market imported nearly 42 400 tonnes of fresh and frozen tuna during January–September 2016, at a value of US$439.2 million, demonstrating volume growth of 8.7 percent. Within these imports, frozen tuna fillets took a 51 percent share, followed by whole, dressed and fresh/chilled tuna (43 percent). The balance was mainly made up of headed and gutted (H&G) frozen bluefin, bigeye and yellowfin tuna.
US imports of raw frozen loins/fillets increased by 12.6 percent to 21 600 tonnes compared with the same period in 2015 while the average import price was stable at US$11 per kg. Supplies increased from the Philippines, Thailand and China but declined by 14 percent from the leading exporter, Indonesia, due to raw material shortages following strict implementation of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing regulations in this country.


Japanese consumer demand for sashimi tuna, both high-end bluefin and mid-value bigeye has improved in 2016. However, there was a 5 percent fall in total imports of whole frozen tuna due to lower catches of bigeye and skipjack. Demand for frozen tuna loins was also stable with imports increasing year-on-year by 3 percent to total 31 200 tonnes. Frozen tuna loins are often preferred by wholesalers and retail due to its longer shelf life.
Autumn promotions and discounts by supermarkets for bigeye and bluefin tuna are driving the improved consumer demand for sashimi. Consumer demand improved further towards the end of 2016 as this is the traditional period for sashimi tuna consumption.

Canned tuna market

Trade summary

During the first nine months of 2016, Thailand, Ecuador, Spain, China and Indonesia remained the top five exporters of processed and canned tuna to the global market. Thailand reported falling exports, whereas all other countries reported positive trends.
During the first nine months of 2016, Ecuador maintained its export growth but only with less than a 1 percent rise in volume, as supplies to Spain, the main market in the EU, suffered a 13.3 percent decline due to weaker demand for cooked loins from tuna canneries. However, Ecuador's exports increased to the Netherlands (+24 percent) and Germany (+5.3 percent). In November 2016, Ecuador and the EU signed a new trade agreement that allows for the continued export of tuna from Ecuador at zero-duty rates over the coming years, bringing a degree of stability to the market.

Spanish prepared tuna exports, which are mostly higher-value products, increased by 5 percent in quantity but declined by the same percentage in value due to weak market prices. Exports to the UK and Germany were 2 percent and 52 percent below 2015's.
Through greater focus on cooked loin production, China increased exports by 8.5 percent to total 64 100 tonnes during the first nine months of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015. Exports weakened by 12.6 percent to the US market, though this decline was compensated for by 62 and 77 percent rises in supply to Portugal and Spain respectively.

In Mauritius, which is largely dependent on the EU and US markets, canned tuna exports suffered a 6 percent decline during January–September 2016 compared with the same period in 2015.
Lackluster consumer demand for canned tuna in the large traditional markets of North America and the EU extended uncertainty to the global canned tuna trade. Imports of cooked loins also suffered as reprocessors in the USA and EU remained conservative in raw material procurement throughout 2016.

North America

During the first nine months of 2016, US and Canadian imports of canned and processed tuna declined by 11 percent and 8 percent respectively compared with the same time period in 2015. The weak demand pattern observed for processed tuna during the first half of 2016 persisted through the third quarter in 2016. Overall, US imports of processed tuna were down year-on-year by 10.4 percent for the first nine months of 2016, with declining volumes from the top five suppliers.

Imports of cooked loins for reprocessing into higher-value products, fell by 9 percent to 47 400 tonnes. Supplies of imported light meat tuna in brine were also down by 17 percent to 57 400 tonnes, and for tuna-in-pouch down by 7 percent to 25 000 tonnes. Only canned white meat imports (albacore) increased to 21 000 tonnes compared with 20 500 tonnes imported during the same period in 2015.


In the EU, the canned tuna sector showed little buying interest during 2016's entirety. Although total EU trade data is not available for January–September 2016 as of this writing, individual country data on Spain, France and Germany indicated declining imports during the review period.
British canned tuna imports posted a 4 percent rise during the review period. However, demand for canned tuna seems to have tapered in the retail trade. According to the latest survey conducted by the market research firm Nielsen, leading supermarkets Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, Mirrison, indicated falling household demand for canned tuna during the last year. Despite these findings, some retail stores reported increased sales, which highlights the price sensitive demand pattern in the market. Tuna is the second largest fish species consumed in the UK after salmon.


Import trends were mixed in the non-EU countries in Europe. Canned tuna imports in Norway were higher by 17 percent at 2 655 tonnes and in the Russian Federation by 10 percent to total 4 000 tonnes during the first nine months of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015. Switzerland posted declines 5 percent to 7 300 tonnes.
Australia and Asia

In Australia, a high-value import market, imports decreased by 13 percent to total 33 000 tonnes due to the weak Australian currency against the US dollar. Imports from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines declined in Australia during the first nine months of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015.
During the first nine months of 2016, Asian canned tuna exporters enjoyed improved sales opportunities into East Asia and the Middle East.

Japan is an important market for processed and canned tuna in Asia. Imports increased in Japan (+6 percent) and among the 44 300 tonnes of processed tuna imported into Japan, 3 700 tonnes were cooked dried katsuobushi products imported from the Philippines, China, Viet Nam and Maldives.
Thailand, the largest importer of tuna raw material, bought 13 percent more cooked loins at 26 000 tonnes for reprocessing during the review period. China, Viet Nam and Indonesia were the main suppliers.
Canned tuna imports for direct consumption also increased by 10 percent into China and 12 percent into Singapore compared with January¬–September 2015.


The report analyses the market situation over the period January-December 2016



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