(Last updated: 21 Nov 2011)
Trends and opportunities
Seafood is a very important part of the Taiwanese diet with seafood consumption about 45kg per year per person, a number that is growing alongside rising health benefits and greater product innovation.
In 2009, Taiwan harvested 1.3 million metric tonnes of fish worth of US$2.6 billion, of which 6.25 per cent came from coastal fishing, 46.35 per cent from deep sea fishing, 12.61 per cent in offshore fishing, 31.5 per cent in inland aquaculture, and 3.29 per cent in marine aquaculture and inland fishing. About half of Taiwan's total production was exported, with skipjack, squid, big-eye tuna, yellow-fin tuna, and tilapia as the leading exports.
The main aspect to focus on is the fact that Australia is seen as a consistent source of high quality and ‘healthy and natural’ seafood products. Australian seafood is well known and highly regarded by the market. The main seafood items imported from Australia are: rock lobster, abalone and crustacean (mud crab). Taiwan used to be a major export market for Australia rock lobster, but due to the declining production of Australian rock lobster and the increasing demand from China, the total imports have dropped significantly in recent years.
In Taiwan, there is a well-developed aquaculture industry. For instance some growers import long fin eel and juveniles for commercial production in Taiwan.
Taiwanese consumers are sophisticated and given their traditional preference for fresh fish and seafood, frozen products must be of the highest quality in order to meet local standards. Local importers and distributors are highly aware of the differences in quality and price for products available from various suppliers. Taiwanese importers will not hesitate to change suppliers if product quality falls or prices increase.
While the Taiwanese generally prefer live or fresh fish and seafood, the combination of busier daily schedules and an increase in the number of dual-income families, a larger volume of purchases made through modern supermarkets has contributed to an increase in demand for frozen seafood products. Consequently, Taiwan presents solid opportunities for Australian suppliers of frozen and processed fish and seafood products.
Although seafood restaurants in Taiwan predominantly serve Chinese cuisine, the growing market presence of international hoteliers and restaurant chains coupled with rising foreign investment in Taiwan's hotel restaurant and institutional (HRI) sector has led to greater awareness and demand for Western-style seafood cuisines. Given the popularity of seafood in both cuisine styles, there are always opportunities for exporters to enter Taiwan's lucrative HRI market.
Taiwan's retail and food processing industries are also consolidating and modernising in response to fierce competition. Both industries are desperately seeking to increase efficiency in sourcing and are looking for new products and ingredients that will provide a competitive edge in the domestic market providing more opportunities for Australian exporters.
Taiwan local seafood industry supplies 80 per cent of all seafood products to its domestic market on an annual basis. With a fleet size of approximately 30,000 fishing vessels, Taiwan relies on deep ocean fishing for the majority of its fish and seafood supply. Important products caught or raised domestically include squid, skipjack, tuna, albacore, tilapia, milkfish, mackerel, shark, hard clams, amberfish, swordfish, oyster and eel. A large portion of the industry, especially the seagoing fleet, is centred in Kaohsiung on the south western coast.
Primary suppliers of fish and seafood products to the Taiwanese market include Thailand, the United States, Norway, Indonesia and Australia. At present, the market remains competitive with no clear dominating supplier countries. Having said that, there are clear regional advantages as indicated by the large presence of Thai, Australian and Indonesian fish and seafood producers.
Australian seafood industry mainly competes on those high value seafood or native species, for instance rock lobster and abalone.