A good indication for the present price hike is the request by Spanish tuna canners for an increase in prices for canned tuna of 20% in retail shops. The only country reporting higher canned tuna imports is Italy, but in this case, the imported canned tuna is merely replacing the domestically produced tuna, as ownership of many Italian trade marks has shifted to Spain during the past two-three years.
UK continues to be the main importer of canned tuna in the EU, with about 132 000 tonnes per year. Per caput consumption of tuna in UK is thus among the highest among European countries, almost equal to the one in Spain. Mauritius and the Seychelles dominate UK canned tuna imports, with a shift from Seychelles to Mauritius. This is not surprising, given the increased canning infrastructure recently created in the latter island. In the first eleven months of 2007, total UK imports were 120 000 tonnes, with these two island countries accounting for 40% of the market supply.
The French market too experienced limited reduction in import quantity. The most interesting news is the return of Côte d’Ivoire as the main, and a growing supplier, accounting for one quarter of French canned tuna imports. The country experienced an impressive 23% growth, after the end of the internal problems and the reorganization of the local tuna canning industry. However, it is still a long way to return to the 40 000 tonnes of exports reported for 2000 or 2002.
Similar to the French and UK market, Germany also experienced slightly lower canned tuna imports in the course of 2007. Lower supplies and higher prices were the reasons behind more limited buying policy of the main supermarket chains. Canned tuna is still a very low end product in the German market, with a lot of product development and promotion needed, to make it enter a more interesting market bracket. It is interesting to see the collapse of the Thai canned tuna exports to Germany, this country is probably exporting some of its canned tuna now directly to the new EU members, while in the past substantial quantities were passing through Hamburg for re-export eastward.
The Italian canned tuna market used to be dominated by the local production, but nowadays very few suppliers are still producing in the country. Several trade marks have been brought up by Spanish canners, which are processing the canned tuna for the Italian market in their canneries in Galicia. This becomes evident from the imports of canned tuna from Spain increasing year by year. Total 2007 imports of canned tuna into Italy can be estimated at 75 000 tonnes, a new record. In the nineties, canned tuna imports into Italy were in the range 35 000 tonnes, thus less than half the today’s amount.
Further price increases likely
Canned tuna prices in Europe are increasing, as the above graph covering a decade shows very clearly. The present price is above US$ 25.00/carton, a price that had not been reached since 2000. This price hike reflects the high fuel costs and other costs of inputs which make tuna canning a costly business. As the general trend on the commodity market do not show any indications of slowing down, canned tuna prices are likely to soar even further in the near future. However, taking inflation into account, canned tuna prices today are far lower than those of ten years ago, and the consumer seems to be willing to accept higher prices for this product.
Report prepared by Helga Josupeit © FAO GLOBEFISH 2007