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Targeting Turkey’s seafood sector: What can Norwegians teach us?

Norwegian firms are feeling optimistic about the Turkish seafood market. Their experiences in the sector have been analysed by food and fisheries research firm Nofima, another Norwegian company, which lays bare some modest challenges facing Turkey’s industry - but crucially reveals some excellent opportunities for foreign firms to make a big splash. 

Challenges of entering the Turkish seafood sector

Nofima has identified a few trends and processes fish suppliers need to be wary of when attempting to enter Turkey’s seafood sector. 

Turks tend to consume relatively lower amounts of fish per year when compared with other countries. Consumption levels stand at around six kilograms of fish per person annually. Comparatively, Norway’s average annual consumption of seafood products stands at 40kg per person each year.

Additionally, a variety of misconceptions regarding fish have arisen in Turkey. Essentially, this is a result of the relative rareness of fish and seafood across the country - especially in its innermost regions far from the coast.

For example, the lack of knowledge around fish has resulted in a myth that eating fatty fish alongside dairy products can be so dangerous it could result in death. Such major misunderstandings requires a coming together of producers, marketers and industry figures in order to improve fish’s reputation as a delicious, safe foodstuff in Turkey.

Finally, regulations pose further barriers to trade. Last year, the Turkish government passed a bill requiring importers to prove all fish entering Turkey is dioxin free. This means it is up to importers to shoulder the costs of testing select fish batches, or sending samples overseas to an independent German bureau. Ultimately, this could cost importers time and money – less than ideal in a market which currently prefers fresh fish to ready-made or frozen offerings.

What about the opportunities in Turkey’s seafood market?

Firstly, in what is bad news for the domestic industry but a golden opportunity for exporters, is the dwindling fish stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Decades of overfishing has led to less fresh fish available in Turkish waters, and subsequently imports of fish and seafood products are on the rise.

Despite this, Turkey’s levels of domestic seafood production have risen across the past decade. A shakeup in the sector’s composition has meant export levels have risen too. Ultimately, however, the majority of Turkish fish and seafood products are shipped overseas, leaving a big hole in the domestic market, hence the need for further fish imports.

Nofima found in its research that an ever expanding section of Turkey’s population is growing increasingly health conscious. As such, seafood is replacing meat in the kitchens of Turkey’s young, increasingly wealthy citizens. 

Nofima’s research, however, does appear to contradict the company’s earlier findings that suggested the majority of Turkish consumers  are unaware of the health benefits of fish. Still, this is one of the areas identified by the Norwegian research specialists as exploitable for international businesses. 

Shopping habits in Turkey are changing. Traditional, open air bazars and markets are giving way to Western-style convenience stores and supermarkets. As Turkey’s supermarket sector enjoys continued growth, higher levels of processed fish products are hitting shelves nationwide. 

While Turks do generally choose fresher options, Turkey’s population is young, motivated and busy. Convenience is starting to become a major aspect of Turkish lifestyles and buying choices, which is feeding into higher levels of demand for pre-packaged, processed offerings.

Turkey’s seafood sector: Trials and tribulations, but opportunities abound

Turkey is a nation with massive potential as a destination for seafood exports. Attitudes are changing towards fish and seafood products, while the nation’s younger generations are favouring readily available offerings. 

There are some initial hurdles to overcome, but canny exporters can surely find solid niches to explore when it comes to expanding into Turkey’s fish and seafood market.

Source: Nofima.no


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