ASMI Sees Opportunity in Southeast Asia

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) is looking to Southeast Asia for substantial opportunities in marketing the state’s seafood, according to an ASMI report presented on Oct. 30.
With a population of 641 million, increasing economic stability, a growing demand for quality and healthy food products, as well as a developing processing sector, ASMI sees Southeast Asia’s potential to mitigate the financial and market damages of the current tariff war between the US and China, according to the report presented during ASMI’s All Hands meeting at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage Oct. 29-31.

The report notes that the current trade conflict has resulted in Alaska seafood suppliers experiencing loss of sales, customers and processing partners in the China market, and their need to redirect their raw materials and end products to new, alternative markets. Southeast Asia is seeing growth in seafood processing sectors in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, in particular, has become one of the largest seafood exporters in the world. Such conditions have Alaska seafood suppliers looking to redirect their fisheries products to expanding markets in Southeast Asia to mitigate financial damage from recent tariffs imposed on US products entering China markets.

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service’s International Agricultural Trade report issued in July, US food exports to Southeast Asia reached $11.8 billion in 2017, a 68 percent increase from 2008, making Southeast Area the third largest regional market for US agriculture products, behind East Asia and North America, and total agricultural imports exceeded $91 billion by year.

The report notes that while some areas in Southeast Asia have made significant improvements in processing technology and capacity, the region requires specific technical assistance when dealing with Alaska seafood products, whose qualities differ from farmed and tropical seafood. Processing Alaska pink and keta salmon in this region will differ from Norwegian farmed salmon and must be handled accordingly, particularly in the warm, humid climate.

FAS has done much work in Thailand and Vietnam to open these markets to US exports, including tariff reduction in Thailand and leveling import restrictions in Vietnam.

As Southeast Asia becomes more urbanize, the growing middle class, influx of expatriates and growing tourism industry has created favorable conditions for domestic consumption of a variety of Alaska seafood.

Many Alaska products that appeal to traditional Japanese preferences have historically suffered from a single market, the report notes. Southeast Asia was identified as a growing market of Alaska species that are losing market share in Japan and now China, and for other under-utilized Alaska species, including salmon, pollock, herring and cod roe, flatfish species, surimi seafood, black cod, yellowfin sole and geoduck clams. Promotions of these species from the Japanese market can be applied to audiences with similar preferences in Southeast Asia, the report said.