ECONOMY

Fish farming on the rebound after three years of crisis

The fish-farming industry seems to be overcoming a painful three years of decline and entering a period of restructuring. Still, many firms are heavily indebted and several of them may not survive. However, there are enough dynamic entrepreneurs heading promising firms to guarantee future expansion for fish farming, which, as some point out, is Greece’s third-largest export sector. «The absence of a legal framework, the immaturity of businesspeople in the sector, the oversupply of products that have resulted in below-cost prices, and grave mistakes in managerial decisions have led the sector into a crisis,» Aristides Belles, president of fish-farming company Nirefs and head of the Hellenic Fish Farming Federation (SETH), told reporters earlier this week. Belles also said that this period is one of restructuring, adding that businesses will make all necessary sacrifices to implement changes. SETH representatives placed emphasis on the sector’s growth prospects, underlined by the fact that fish populations in the wild decline by 6 percent annually, while farmed fish is rising 11 percent annually worldwide, and 4 percent in Europe. Greece’s fish-farming sector comprises 269 companies, seven or which are listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, and employs a total of 9,500 people, most in areas where jobs are scarce. Its production, 75,000 tons, is top in the Mediterranean, and 77 percent, or 57,750 tons, are exported, providing a turnover of 300 million euros annually. Exports are directed to other Mediterranean and southern European countries, including Italy, Spain, France and Portugal, and also to countries such as Austria, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands and the United States. Greek companies provide know-how to firms in the Middle East and the Far East. SETH officials want the State to develop a «crystal-clear» strategy for the development of the sector as well as help them get the over 230 million euros allocated to the sector through the European Union’s Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) program, but which hasn’t been disbursed. As for the firms themselves, SETH officials said they must do more to protect the environment; boost research and development on the types of fish that can be farmed; invest more in advertising the sector; organize modern production units and further cut production costs. As for prices, they seem to have recovered recently, averaging 5.50-5.70 euros per kilo wholesale and 7.50 euros per kilo retail.