Grimsby’s Europe-leading seafood processing cluster is stepping up promotional efforts home and away in 2020 as it keeps a careful eye on what type of Brexit is delivered.
The town’s primary industry is now believed to be the largest concentration of the sector in the EU as it stands, with Bremerhaven and Boulogne-sur-Mer employing less than the 5,500 directly involved in the fish business in North East Lincolnshire.
2019 saw cluster organisation Seafood Grimsby and Humber bring forward the Made Great in Grimsby brand at the UK Seafood Summit as it looks to create pride in the provenance of the value added to supplies often arriving from Iceland, Norway or further afield.
And what happens in clear view of Grimsby’s Dock Tower – proudly part of Young’s Seafood’s masterbrand – will be showcased at special events for the sector.
“Humber Seafood Summit started in 2010 and evolved into the UK summit at Forest Pines,” Mr Dwyer said. “Seafood Grimsby and Humber and the FMA have agreed with Seafish that we would like to start to replicate what we had 10 years ago, and have a more Grimsby/Humber-centric conference. We felt like it had lost its identity a little.
“We have agreed to two or three forums a year, starting with a first on March 26. That will have a focus on the actual seafood cluster here, in terms of what we are, who we are, and where we are at. It will also be on the supply of whitefish, which is very relevant for Grimsby fish merchants and the fish market.”
A venue in the town will be secured, with the plan to have a late afternoon / evening approach to fit around with the early starts of many involved in the industry.
“We are reinventing the summit, which had outgrown Grimsby, reinvigorating what we started 10 years ago with the work of Wynne Griffiths,” Mr Dwyer said.
And while that will bring attention to the home front, targeted missions outside of the UK are also being worked up.
“We are planning, with Seafish, a series of visits to different areas of the world to promote products that we process in Grimsby under the Made Great in Grimsby brand.
“That’s going to be in collaboration with regional Department of International Trade representatives as well. We will promote the products and take as many processors as possible to different markets.”
China Fisheries and Seafood Expo in October and World Expo – in Dubai for 2020 – have been highlighted.
“More exports simply means more volumes for the town,” Mr Dwyer said.
FMA membership has seen a slight boost with the “good take up of Made Great in Grimsby,” as it innovates to counter consolidation in the sector.
And on the EU withdrawal it is playing a key role.
“We will be keeping an eye on what ‘let’s get Brexit done’ means, and we will still be working with all our members and the industry to prepare for a no deal Brexit – I think it would be foolish not to,” Mr Dwyer said. “During the latter part of this year we have been having one-to-one interventions with various fish merchants in terms of the impact Brexit is likely to have with them.
“We are talking to small businesses exporting to France, others importing scallops from France and those importing flatfish from Holland and seabass and seabream from Greece and Turkey. Concerns range from part-load logistics through to implications for packaging.
“That will continue into 2020, and we will also continue the dialogue with MPs, Defra and Greater Lincolnshire LEP in terms of future-proofing for whatever is going to happen. Our priorities haven’t changed in terms of frictionless trade, access to skilled labour and tariffs being maintained. Now we have some certainty that Brexit is going to happen at the end of 2020 it is a case of adapting to what type of Brexit it will be.”
Looking at the wider industry, Mr Dwyer sees much more of the same with the merry-go-round of retail contracts and more mergers. Jaines Seafood taking on the traditional Albert Darnell work from a prior merger with New England Seafood International was a big one for the sector, and fewer larger operators is anticipated.
“Going into the start of a new decade, it will be quite an interesting period for Grimsby and the seafood processing sector,” Mr Dwyer said. “There are going to be tenders won and lost, which hopefully stay in Grimsby, and there is a probability that there will be further consolidation in the industry in the first couple of years.
“There’s also going to be a focus on innovation and automation. For us, particularly, it will be in the SME sector, where cost can certainly be an issue.”
It has brought Grimsby Institute’s Food Refrigeration and Process Engineering Research Centre together with Production Support 56, a process improvement specialist, with business support organisation E-Factor’s Gain project also being used.
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