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Seafood Market and Processing Sector

As with other Irish food sectors, Irish seafood operates in two very differently performing markets: buoyant export markets and a difficult home market. Together they were worth €719m in 2010.


Export markets grew to an estimated €379M for 2010, up by 15% on 2009.
Irish salmon (predominantly organic) had an excellent performance during 2010, with exports estimated at €67m, up 33% in value compared to 2009. Shellfish also recovered strongly with exports worth an estimated €143m, up 24% on 2009. Finally, Pelagic held value and increased volumes by 10% with a total of €112m in exports.

The EU remained the main export destination with approximately 79% with the balance going to Russia, Africa and Asian markets. France accounted for 25% of exports followed by Spain 13%, UK 11%, Germany 6%, and Italy, Russia and Nigeria all at 5%.


The Irish market had a difficult year in 2010 with total sales estimated at €333 million, down 11.6% on 2009. The economic situation, declining consumer purchasing power and bad weather over festive time impacted heavily on both retail and food service sectors. During 2010, there was a shift from salmon and prawns to cheaper cod, coley and haddock. Allied to consumers buying cheaper seafood, there was also a trend to smaller portion sizes with continued growth in pre-packs.

The Seafood Processing Sector

The seafood processing sector is concentrated in the coastal regions of Donegal, Galway, Cork, Kerry and the South East. There are approximately 200 firms, mainly SMEs, are engaged in handling, distribution and processing of fish. Less than 5% of these companies had more than 50 people employed fulltime, while a significant number of small operators supply a local market or sell to niche market outlets.

BIM surveys giving a breakdown of the seafood-processing companies by level of turnover point towards a lack of economies-of-scale within the industry. Less than 10% of all companies operate with annual turnovers in excess of €10 million, with the top 50 companies accounting for 80% of overall turnover in the sector.