The Australian farmed barramundi industry output is forecast to rise sharply over the next three years. Production will double in the next twelve months as expansion of existing operations in Queensland, and new operations in the Northern Territory, NSW, Victoria and WA, come on line. Barramundi has enjoyed relatively high market prices in the past and is considered a premium fish. It is an ideal candidate for tropical aquaculture and can be produced in saltwater and freshwater. It is now successfully grown in fresh and saltwater ponds, cages systems in marine, estuarine and in freshwater locations, in recirculation tank and pond systems, and in flow through tank systems using geothermal water. In fact barramundi is now commercially grown in every mainland State in Australia.
As the supply of barramundi increases the market price has fallen. There is a need to address this pressure on price. To date there has been very little coordinated generic marketing activity by the farmed barramundi industry. Therefore there is a real need to undertake targeted generic promotional activity based on consistent, specified quality produce. This situation is not unique to barramundi but translates across the entire aquaculture industry, particularly in other aquaculture sectors experiencing rapid growth.
In order to underpin an effective generic market development campaign the industry must address the high variability in quality of product. The high variability in quality of farmed barramundi in the market occurs for a number of reasons. Highly varying production, handling and processing techniques, a lack of understanding and expertise, a lack of willingness to address quality, and importantly, a lack of coordination across the industry. This project seeks to address each of these issues.
It has been recognised that production from the Australian farmed barramundi industry will rise sharply over the next three years. Production is likely to rise to around 4000 tonnes by 2005/06. There will be significant expansion from existing operations particularly in Queensland, Northern Territory, and WA as well as new operations in NSW and Victoria.
The standards cover size, grading, fish condition, flavour, packing and labelling of fresh whole fish and do not cover processed fish, fillets or frozen product. They do not incorporate fish colour.
An objective of this project was to explore the opportunities and options for the introduction of an Association label or mark that would formally identify that a member was producing products that conformed to a set of agreed standards. The label would differentiate the product from other non-accredited product.
The ABFA determined that a label would have to be based on auditable certification and the benefits (profit) from implementing and administering a certification program would have to be worthwhile. It was considered premature to introduce an industry backed accreditation scheme to support the Standards at this point in time, however this position is to be reviewed regularly. It was agreed that the standards should be implemented and promoted to ensure industry wide adoption.
The ABFA Executive formally agreed to adopt the quality standards and the product specifications and initiate a three-year quality program to assess and, where appropriate, implement an accreditation scheme and adopt a quality label.
Keywords: Barramundi, Quality, Standards, Aquaculture.