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Seafood industry meets in Boston

The largest seafood trade event in North America is underway in Boston. For Ocean Choice International (OCI), it’s all about connecting with markets face-to-face with hopes of selling new products and finding new business opportunities.

Representatives of Ocean Choice International (OCI) are among 19,000 buyers and sellers at the 2014 International Boston Seafood Show. (From left) OCI’s chief operating officer Blaine Sullivan, federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, OCI CEO Martin Sullivan, Sen. David Wells and OCI’s Loyola Sullivan, vice-president resource management and sustainability, attended the annual trade show. — Submitted photo

The former International Boston Seafood Show may have a new name — Seafood Expo North America — but the three-day event still has its typical drawing points. The 2014 edition of the annual event is expected to feature 19,000 buyers and sellers from over 100 countries.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase our products and also introduce new items to our customer base in this market,” said OCI CEO Martin Sullivan.

Sullivan was among several industry representatives who participated in a teleconference organized by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea also spoke with reporters.

Shea highlighted the value to the fishing industry of the new free-trade agreement between Canada and South Korea. Canada’s fish and seafood exports are reportedly worth more than $4.2 billion annually.

“This free-trade agreement is Canada’s first with an Asian market,” noted Shea. She said the agreement will eliminate average tariffs of 16.5 per cent for the fisheries sector.

“Those tariffs can spike as high as 47 per cent, so there’s a significant opportunity for Canadian companies.”

According to Jeff Duffin, vice-president of global marketing for Clearwater Seafoods, the South Korean market has shown an interest in lobster and value-added seafood products like scallops mixed with flavoured sauces.

“That concept seems to be popular in South Korea, and we are starting to look at what specific flavours resonate with customers and consumers in that market,” he said.

Meeting with customers in person helps to build and maintain long-term business relationships, according to Sullivan. He said the event tends to attract more attendees from Asia and North and South America. Sullivan indicated the European market’s representation at the expo is not at the same level as those continents.

Sullivan identified Brazil as an attractive market experiencing noticeable growth. He also made specific mention of China’s emerging middle class as a market creating new business opportunities for Canadian seafood.

“Their ability to buy more-expensive seafood is increasing dramatically,” he said.

Sullivan said his company will directly benefit from trade agreements reached by the federal government, and noted there are some still in the process of being negotiated. He said such agreements are essential to the fishing industry’s long-term success.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

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