Fish farming industry is seen sinking


Greek aquaculture has been dealt a devastating blow, as after the losses incurred due to the dramatic drop in exports to Italy, exports to France and Spain are also on the slide. Meanwhile, the flight ban between the European Union and the US makes the cost of shipping Greek fish to the American market pretty much prohibitive.

At the same time the government-ordered closure of restaurants in Greece combined with the fact that consumers now prefer long-lasting types of food is resulting in further losses for the sector, this time from the domestic market. On Tuesday the fish farming producers association (ELOPY) sent a set of proposals to the ministries of Finance and Agricultural Development aimed at the support of the sector.

Fish farming professionals stress that the drop in exports to Italy has reached 60 percent, while some small and medium-sized enterprises active mostly in western Greece have seen orders from Italy sink to zero.

Fish is the main commodity exported from Greece to Italy, amounting to 253.6 million euros in 2018, according to data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). Italy is also the biggest market for Greek aquaculture, as it absorbs 45 percent of the Greek farmed sea bass and sea bream. Spain is the second biggest European market for Greek fish exports, absorbing 12.6 percent of local production and accounting for 15.5 percent of bass and bream exports. France is third, importing 9.6 percent of production and accounting for 11.83 percent of bream and bass exports.

The cost of exporting fish to the US has now more than doubled, as Greek fish used to travel to the US on conventional flights at a cost of 2.5 euros per kilogram. Donald Trump’s decision to ban all EU flights has forced Greek producers to seek alternative routes, such as exporting fish via flights by Turkish Airlines (THY) or Emirates. The offer from THY comes to 6 euros/kg, sources say, which may be related to Turkey being Greece’s main competitor in farmed bass and bream.

The drop in demand means producers will now need to release some quantities of fish into the sea as they run the risk of going unsold.