‘Dire’ Covid-19 consequences for EU supply chain

The coronavirus is creating market failure in the EU seafood sector

EUROPEAN fish processors and traders are calling for further measures to mitigate ‘market failure’ in the seafood industry.

The sector is dealing with a general disruption of demand that has resulted in ‘dire consequences’ in the supply chain of fresh fish, said the body representing EU processors, AIPCE CEP.

Businesses active in frozen seafood and ‘shelf stable’ (or ambient) products are facing strong demand at present and are able to provide the market.

But even they may face problems in the near future if the raw materials are not available, and there are problems with logistics, the processing body warned in a press release today.

While processors and traders welcome EU and individual member state economic measures to counter the impact of Covid-19, they are demanding more action to lessen the impact of the crisis.

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund must include the processing part of the value chain in its extraordinary measures; and import procedures have to be ‘agile and flexible’, said AIPCE, which represents more than 128,000 jobs and over 3,900 companies in the sector.

‘In these past weeks, the industry has been dealing with a combination of issues that may lead to closures of production sites in the EU and loss of many, in particular, small businesses, with severe consequences for the employment in, for example, coastal areas,’ AIPCE added.

In what it describes as a ‘negative demand shock’, the organisation highlighted the sharp decrease, or no demand at all, in the food service industry.

It also said the market for fresh fish and seafood products had ‘gone down dramatically’, with the partial closing of fresh fish counters at retail in some member states.

Logistics are being hit by reinstated border checks within the internal market; delays at border sites; the unavailability of vehicles due to the delays produced at border sites; and a possible lack of the usual restaurant services and showering at highway gas stations for truck drivers.

‘The Commission has adopted guidelines to ensure the flows of basic goods, but the situation on the ground remains problematic,’ said AIPCE.

‘For example, the green lanes for food are not a solution, if packaging material is stuck at border sites.

‘Furthermore, a closed EU border for delivery of fresh fish like salmon from Norway, via Denmark into the EU, would be seriously damaging fresh fish sales and create disruption of, for instance, smoking activities in the EU.’

AIPCE said the decision to close EU outside borders should not apply to transport bringing in food, particularly when this food was either in short supply in the EU, or where the EU was dependent on foreign imports to maintain production.

Red tape should be cut as much as possible in border controls and plant inspections.

Processors are also urging that proposed amendments to the EMFF, which will provide financial compensation to fishermen and aquaculture producers, include their sector too.