Seabass & Seabrean

Bass and bream: relative stability of 2015 can serve as platform for development

After a long period of low prices, high costs and near bankruptcy for many bass and bream companies, improved prices in 2015 have brought renewed confidence to the industry. With this stable period expected to continue, there is now a valuable opportunity to invest in much-needed technological innovation and product development.

The prevailing trends in the bass and bream market in 2015 have been lower supply and higher prices for bream, while for bass there has been generally flat supply with only marginal increases in prices in some markets. These price gains have been sufficient, however, to sharply reduce losses amongst the major Greek aquaculture companies and in some cases even push margins back into the black. Greek banks, now the major shareholders of these companies following recapitalization, are already actively seeking investors.

At the same time, many industry representatives are emphasizing the need for the industry to work together in consolidating the improved market situation through collective investment in research and development and cooperate in expanding the market base of their products. Data collection, improved feed management and formulas, broodstock selection and conditioning as well as animal health have all been identified as key focus areas at the farming level. On the market side, there have been calls to diversify the product range and to more closely align its characteristics with today's consumers' preferences for healthy, sustainable and convenient seafood.

Greek bass and bream export volumes in 2015, based on available statistics for the first nine months of the year, remained well below those of 2014, although this was almost entirely accounted for by a steep drop in bream supply with bass exports remaining flat. Exports of bream fell to almost all major markets, with the shortfall being particularly severe during the summer months, when prices in almost all major markets turned sharply upwards.

In Turkey, gonadal development (so-called-milting) in bass and bream beginning in October 2015 caused a cyclical seasonal negative impact on prices. During this time, fillet yield decreases, and as a result, fish sized 400-600 g and 600-800 g became destined for the fresh fish market instead of processing. Companies aim for intensive sales during this period to manage their cash flows and before milting occurs. Not surprisingly, prices (ex-farm/iced packed) of 200-300 g to 600-800 g bream were about USD 4.28 per kg regardless of size category throughout November and December 2015. Prices of bass also remained around USD 4.96 per kg during these same months. Due to the decrease in stocks following this sales period, prices are expected to rise and remain stable throughout January to mid-May for 400-600 g and 600-800 g bream. The same trend is also expected for bass.

According to industry sources, total hatchery production of bass and bream for Turkey in 2016 is expected to be about 400 million juveniles, approximately the same as initially planned for 2015. Due to some bio-technical problems, Turkish hatcheries struggled to meet the demand for bass juveniles in 2015, but will seemingly be able meet the demand in 2016.