ECONOMY

Turkey outswimming Greece in key fish markets

Turkey has snatched the lead position in sea bass fish farming – leaving Greece in second place – while also vying for the top spot in bream production. At the same time, Greece’s eastern neighbor is boosting its penetration in markets where local companies are active, doubling its exports to the United Kingdom and the United States last year.

The main reason for that growth has been the Russian embargo on European Union products, which the Turks have been making the most of by effectively becoming the sole suppliers of bass and bream in the huge Russian market.

The only consolation for the Greeks is that, according to early indications from the market this year, Turkish fish farmers are now focusing more on increasing their profit margins, and are no longer offering their products at particularly low prices.

According to the latest report by FAO Globefish, the unit in the Fisheries Department of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization responsible for information on international fish trade, UK imports of Greek fish – particularly bream – posted a dramatic decline last year, while imports from Turkey more than doubled. There was a similar development in the US, where Greek fish continued to be the market leader but imports from Turkey more than doubled compared to 2013, as according to Greek aquaculture entrepreneurs, the transport costs for Turkish fish to foreign markets are lower.

Spain also observed a decline in Greek fish imports. The Globefish report showed that the share of Greek bream and bass in the Spanish market has dropped from 73 percent in 2012 to 54 percent in just two years. Turkish fish, on the other hand, have leapt upstream, from 18 percent in 2012 to 29 percent last year. Lower prices have also helped Turkish fish farming products to see their demand in Germany grow.

Things are a little better for Greek fish in the Italian market, one of the main destinations for local production. Fish exports to Italy remained at the same level last year as 2013, while prices rose too.

According to the Globefish report, the success of the fish farming sector in Turkey is based on two factors: The first is that its main rivals, the Greek companies, are either at the bankruptcy stage or undergoing debt restructuring, and the second is that, besides the significant investment made in the sector in recent years, Turkish companies benefit from state funding, which allows for the sale of Turkish fish in foreign markets at lower prices than those of Greek products. The exceptionally competitive prices of Turkish fish have also had a particularly negative impact on Greek products, especially in emerging markets.