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Spanish Canners Losing Share In EU Markets To African Players European Union, January 4, 13

The economic crisis in Europe, rising prices and tightening of consumers’ wallets seem to be affecting the Spanish tuna canning industry, with major European markets opting to buy lower value tuna from African processors in Seychelles and the Ivory Coast, according to a recent United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Globefish report.
In the first half of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011, both Italy and France reduced their imports from Spain and Ecuador –with canneries also owned by Spanish canning groups – in favor of products from Africa. Italy imported 12% less from Spain, while it increased its purchases from Seychelles by 15% and from Ivory Coast by 109%.
Seychelles and the Ivory Coast also supplied more to France, about 30% and 77% respectively, while volumes from Spain and Ecuador declined by 47% and 22%. Seychelles became the top supplier in the market, but overall French canned tuna imports shrank by more than 11% in the first six months of 2012.
The growth of Seychelles in the Italian and French markets could be mainly due to Thai Union’s takeover of France-based MW Brands in 2010. The company is known for top brands such as Mareblu (Italy) and Petit Navire (France), and has a factory in Seychelles that is capable of producing 1.5 million cans of tuna each day. Exports from Seychelles to the EU climbed to about 4.9 million cartons (48 x 185 grams) in 2011, after hitting about 4.7 million cartons in 2010, and France had become the top destination for its products, surpassing the UK.

Despite the Ivory Coast’s positive growth in Italy and France – its top two markets – in the first half of 2012, the West African country had been losing ground in the EU in previous years. In 2011, its exports to the EU declined by 17% since 2009 to hit just over 3 million cartons. The volumes shipped to Italy and France over this three year period also shrank by 33% and 21%, respectively. This past downturn could be a result of the country’s political unrest experienced in the last few years.

Besides encountering less than positive results in the first half of 2012, Spain’s canning industry also saw its imports of pre-cooked tuna loins from Thailand decrease by 80% compared to January-June 2011, according to Globefish which cited weakening demand and high prices for the significant decline.