IFFO's Monthly Update constitutes a key communications tool for the marine ingredients industry and its main players. This report is dedicated to the needs of IFFO's members, bringing together industry news and insights from our diverse network.
Spring and autumn are conference seasons, times when summer and winter holidays don’t clash with the well-established and often much anticipated chances to get together with people in a similar line of work. Often events are close to each other in the calendar, competing for diary space and expense account budget but they provide opportunities to learn, share information and maintain those personal interactions that we humans enjoy.
Seeing a wide range of people in a short period of time, perhaps over consecutive events, also highlights trends in attitudes and a catch-phrase I am hearing a lot at the moment is “pre-competitive collaboration” – let’s call it PCC. In these times of anti-trust regulations (is anyone else following the USA Bumblebee tuna company legal action?), you could be forgiven for running a mile if asked to sit down with competitors but, fortunately, there is enough wisdom around to realise some problems (a) cannot be solved by individual companies and (b) in no way constitute price fixing. Of course it helps if a group consists of buyers and sellers, and not just sellers alone, but these PCC mechanisms offer a way for industry to solve problems at a speed that would impossible to do otherwise.
If you live in the EU, you will have been deluged by emails as a result of new data protection regulations that came into force at the end of May. Businesses, including organisations like IFFO, have for many years had to protect any personal data they hold but must now make it clear what they hold and for what it is used. For members of the public, this is a good thing as many will be worried about the amount of information about us that is now collected, stored and often sold to others. Just searching for a product on Google means your email address can be sold to advertisers and you might receive unwanted messages offering their products or services. For lawyers, it is also good news as thousands of small businesses scramble for advice on how to comply with the regulations.
One of the databases we keep is for conference registrations and you will be pleased to know you can / can shortly (delete) register for the 2018 IFFO Annual Conference in Rome (15th – 17th October). One of the highlights this year will be a panel of senior executives and commentators from the press and aquaculture industry, giving their perspective on the marine ingredients industry and the challenges we face. As usual we are offering Early Bird discount rates so make the most of the saving and book early!
If anyone wanted to write a book about a global trade and the constant changes that happen to those involved, the fishmeal and fish oil industry would be great case study. It has always been an international business but, within the lifetime of those still working in the industry, the uses are completely different, the markets have become worldwide and the prices obtained have tripled. “Business as Usual” involves understanding continually changing factors including global agricultural commodity markets, currencies and weather patterns.
As if this was not enough, eCommerce has moved the rate of change up a gear, with new channels and distribution options available to producers and more delivery choices and information on the products available to consumers. A presentation on developments within the Alibaba group at the April 2018 Brussels Seafood Expo showed just what is already possible and it’s good news for aquaculture and therefore the marine ingredients industry. The Chinese population is growing, their disposable income increasing and their appetite for fish exceeds many other markets. The sources of wild caught fish in China are very limited so it’s aquaculture that will benefit from eCommerce making seafood more available.
One of the reasons IFFO is a successful organisation is our tradition of sharing information – everyone benefits by contributing the single pixel view from their window and allowing IFFO to stitch them together to show the wider picture (although still fuzzy in places). Most of the time, this works well and I was hugely impressed by a Chinese feed company member whose policy was to make research and development information public, knowing that if they gave away their older secrets, they were forced to discover some new ones.
Occasionally, some companies want to get a free ride and see the big picture without contributing their part. Obviously if everyone did that there would be no big picture, which is why every Producer and Premium Non Producer member that joins IFFO agrees to the Rights and Duties of members, including a responsibility to provide information on their business. In the run up to our Members Meeting in Miami, we are again seeing large companies struck with an outbreak of stage-fright and declining to share information. This puts us in a difficult position – bar them from the Market Forum or risk others who do contribute seeing some people staying silent and deciding to do the same themselves. No-one is expecting intellectual property to be put at risk, or stock markets to be upset but if you are a Producer or Premium Non Producer, and choose not to “share information and participate actively in the Market Forums” (from IFFO Members Rights and Duties), IFFO supports those members who do take the time to participate and there may be fewer free rides available in future.
Last month I took the difficult decision to accept another job offer and resign as Director General of IFFO. Difficult as I have made many friends in an industry I knew only a little about when I joined IFFO in 2011 and the IFFO team are an outstanding group of people. One of my colleagues was surprised I was leaving “so quickly” and it does seem as though seven years have passed in the blink of an eye.
When I look back over this time, my feeling is one of catching a wave. When I joined, the industry was embracing sustainability, the recently launched IFFO RS scheme was attracting a lot of attention, and it seemed a good time to start talking about our products with some pride. It also seemed time to move on from the old fashioned fishmeal and fish oil trade with its associated image of bulk, commodity products, piled on quaysides in the open air like grit for roads. I remember an early brainstorming session in London coming up with the term “marine ingredients” as a more modern and accurate (considering it now included krill, squid and other meals) description.