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Ireland’s seafood development agency, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), has pointed to 2018’s reduced harvest of farmed salmon as a key reason for a slowdown in the growth of the seafood economy, although it still increased by €40 million (+3.4%) to reach a total value of €1.25 billion.

In its annual Business of Seafood report, BIM stated: “Growth in the seafood economy slowed down in 2018 which can largely be explained by the production pattern of Ireland’s most valuable seafood export, Irish organic salmon.

“Due to limited production sites and the production cycle of this key aquaculture species the volume produced in 2018 was lower than the previous year. Improved factors indicate that production should return to previous levels in 2019.”

Click to enlarge image.
Click to enlarge image.

Most valuable export

It added: “Salmon continues to be our most valuable seafood export and market demand remained strong throughout the year, particularly in the organic sector.

“While domestic production declined, increasing demand saw prices reach an all-time high. There are, however, competitive threats emerging from other countries as they increase organic production in line with market demand.”

Aquaculture – both finfish and shellfish - was worth €176 million in 2018, a drop of 15%. The farmed finfish sector was worth €120m (-19%) – of which €119m was salmon – and the farmed shellfish sector earned €56m (-6%).

39% volume decrease

Mowi Ireland accounts for more than half of the country’s farmed salmon production, which is almost entirely organic salmon.

Its harvest dropped from 9,745 gutted weight tonnes in 2017 to 6,238 GWT last year, which it attributed to lower opening biomass and reduced growth. It expects to harvest 9,000 GWT this year.

The BIM said that overall Ireland’s salmon farmers harvested 12,200 tonnes last year, a 39% fall by volume.

Among other things, the report revealed that Asia has surpassed the UK as the second biggest export market for Irish seafood. Exports of Irish seafood to Asia totalled €96 million in 2018, an increase of 23%. The value of exports to the UK fell by 4% to €81 million during this same period due to a decrease in the value of sterling.

Meanwhile, salmon was the top selling species in shops. Irish consumers spent €116 million on salmon last year, a rise of 11% on 2017.

Read the full report here.