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New EU regulation measures: how to avoid their negative consequences?
05.01.24

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New EU regulation measures: how to avoid their negative consequences?

The European Council set new quotas, which cover certain fishery products for the next three years. The autonomous tariff quotas (ATQ) regulations cover species such as tuna, pollock, hake, shrimps, cod or flatfish, allowing relatively high volumes to be imported from non-EU countries without paying customs duties or at reduced tariffs. Thus, European Union provides fish raw material for its fish processing industry, safeguards its competitiveness and ensures the supply of European consumers with quality processed fish products at reasonable prices that are not sufficiently produced in EU.

In a recent decision the Council excluded Russian fish products from the next version of the ATQ scheme. While fish from Russia can still be imported into EU, it will be at standards tariffs, such as 13.7 percent for pollock fillet blocks and 12 percent for headed and gutted (H&G) cod. Similarly, Russian fish heading into EU via China will also no longer be able to be imported under preferential tariffs but instead be subjected to standard rates. This threatens to significantly increase prices for European consumers.

Simultaneously, the USA has imposed a ban on the import of salmon, crab, and cod from Russia, as well as products processed in other countries. But unlike European countries, the United States sources white fish and salmon from its own catch, along with crabs and other seafood. However, these new restrictions could strain stability and relationships within the global fishery industry.

Growing dependency

The new ATQ regulation would have serious consequences for the EU seafood market: its dependency on imports, which has been extremely high for many years, continues to grow, either because these products are not produced in EU or because they are not produced in sufficient quantities.

The international media holding IntraFish cited the latest finfish report of the European Fish Processors and Traders Association (AIPCE-CEP) saying that the EU self-sufficiency in seafood is only around 39 percent.

Of the many products for which ATQs are set, pollock is one of the most important given that the EU is 100-percent reliant on supplies from the United States, China and Russia. According to AIPCE, Russia accounted for 25 percent of the EU’s pollock imports in 2021, amounting to around 200,000 metric tons. Cod imports amounted to 18 percent of the total, at around 153,000 metric tons. However, these numbers are in reality far large given that more than 95 percent of pollock imported from China into EU has a Russian origin.

Not surprisingly, last month AIPCE called on the European Commission to delay its exclusion of Russian whitefish from the ATQ system until at least 2025. The association warned that the proposed changes to the ATQ system would severe restrict the EU processing sector’s potential for growth and threaten its viability. But the new regulation came into force from Jan.1.

Big challenge and big opportunities

The looming new ATQ system threatens to pose a major challenge for all participants in the EU seafood market. European fish processors will face an equally difficult task of finding a replacement for Russian whitefish, the supply volumes of which are likely to decline due to the new ATQ system. Not to mention that an increase in seafood prices on the EU market looks almost inevitable.

However, new challenges, as always, open up new opportunities. EU countries can explore possibilities of reducing their dependence. They are able to find new suppliers of white fish, even considering the shift from pollock to pangasius and other species from small and medium-sized suppliers that are rarely seen at European shows.

The decrease in supplies to Europe and USA could benefit African countries in their fight against hunger. Russia’s low catching costs and abundant resources provide an opportunity for increased presence in the markets of African countries, particularly those within COMHAFAT/ATLAFCO, showing a growing interest in fish products. The Middle East has also seen an increase in seafood consumption and investment in development of fisheries, aquaculture and processing.

New markets and export directions will require new supply chains. In these realities, Turkey can become new logistics hub, using its geographical location to connect seafood buyers and sellers from Europe, Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America. 

On May 15-17, 2024, Seafood Expo Eurasia in Istanbul will bring together fishing and seafood companies from all over the world, as well as logistic operators from Turkey and other countries to help its participants collaborate more closely, regardless of the changing political environment. Based on the principle of "business beyond politics", the new global exhibition will help unite fishery industry again and overcome barriers to collaborative sustainable development for the benefit of the fisheries and consumers around the world. In addition, the main issues of every market will be discussed within the business program.

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