The Eel fishers in NSW have been trading their product with China for many years typically selling product via exporters who used the "grey channel". The crackdown on illegal imports to China has resulted in steadily deteriorating prices and apparent demand for NSW eels causing catches to decline - it is simply not worth fishing. Total catch limit of 155.22 t @8/kg (minimum) means the fishery is potentially worth more that $1m pa. Currently less than 30t is caught leaving significant room for growth.
PFA research shows that there is still a large unmet demand for eels in China, Japan and other Asian markets and that the reduced tariffs through the trade agreements has enhanced the economic viability of targeting those markets. The NSW eel fishery recently became managed by quota which has been a catalyst for NSW fishers' need to value add the product and focus on marketing the entire run of catch rather than just those suitable for live. The live market has a definite preference for particular eels but there are opportunities to transform eels not suitable for live into new formats.
The FTP project demonstrated that NSW eel fishers are able to work collaboratively to target new market opportunities for what is currently an under-utilised product. The PFA has been inundated by fishers from NSW, QLD and Victoria asking about prospects for eel markets demonstrating that there is an desperate need to conduct further research to support new legal channels market and product formats that meet the needs of those markets.
We need to
a) Develop and test new product formats (other than live) specifically for the Asian market
b) Define market needs including consumer demand, competitor analysis, channel and supply chain partner identification
c) Understand the economics and logistics requirements to create competitive supply chains that meet market requirements
d) Analyse how to scale up production to meet potential market demand and maximise the value of the catch. This will likely include working with other Eel fishers nationally
The results will advise Stage 2 of this project which is to inform the development of quality parameters for different product formats.