FISH from Ulladulla could soon be making its way to China after Chinese agriculture officials met with local fishing representatives recently.
The potential for a massive boost to the local fishing industry was raised when officials from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture inspected the Ulladulla Fishermen’s Co-op.
The possibility of sending fish from Ulladulla was raised, as was the notion of Chinese interests investing in Ulladulla as part of a joint enterprise.
“They were very, very impressed,” said co-op chairman Mario Puglisi.
Paul Lavalle’s boat South Seas helped seal the positive impression when it arrived with a load of bluefin tuna just as members of the four-person delegation were heading off to lunch.
“They didn’t care about lunch, they were more interested in seeing the whole operation as the fish were unloaded and processed,” Mr Puglisi said.
The delegation from the rural co-operative economy division was headed by high-ranking Chinese official Ruijie Guan, a former director-general of the Fisheries Bureau in the Ministry of Agriculture.
He said there was a potential market for the high-quality product processed through the Ulladulla co-op.
“In the big hotels, in the fancy restaurants, they all serve tuna,” Mr Guan said through interpreter Li Xi.
While Mr Guan said there was a market for the top-end tuna already attracting premium prices in Japanese markets, he was also interested in low-cost fish that could become part of the staple diet of the nation’s people.
Seafood exporter and co-op member Dick Perese said he was able to supply large volumes of low-cost Australian salmon and yellow-tail mackerel for the Chinese market, and even offered samples of cold-smoked Australian salmon.
“If the price is competitive it will be very popular in China,” Mr Guan said.
While much of the discussion centred on China buying fish from Ulladulla, the possibility of China investing directly in the Ulladulla region as part of a joint venture was also raised.
That could see Chinese organisations investing millions of dollars in the region to upgrade processing facilities, making products specifically for the Chinese market.
One of the tour’s organisers, Bob Corben, said there were great opportunities for growth in Ulladulla.
“I’m sure the Ulladulla people would be very interested in either acting as agents for a Chinese venture, or working in a joint venture,” he said.
The option of China pre-buying part of the Australian fishing quota at a fixed price was also discussed.
Mr Puglisi said sales to China could help stabilise returns to fishing crews facing fluctuating prices of tuna sold in the Japanese market.
He thought the Chinese market might prefer yellowfin tuna, while the Japanese market was more focused on bluefin and bigeye tuna.