Minister Confident Industry is up to the Task to Overcome 2021 Challenges
In spite of the impact COVID-19 had on markets in 2020, seafood exports from Nova Scotia are still expected to top the $2 billion mark when all is tallied for the year.
“Despite the year’s troubles, we are still able to proudly proclaim Nova Scotia as Canada’s top exporter of seafood for five years running, and seafood as Nova Scotia’s highest valued export at about $2.3 billion,” said Nova Scotia Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Keith Colwell in a statement to the Atlantic Fisherman.
While seafood exports overall were down 15 per cent, year-to-date 2020, compared to 2019 with losses seen in major markets like the U.S. and China, “Nova Scotia seafood exporters managed to sell an impressive $1.7 billion in total exports” between January and October, said Colwell.
“That’s a tremendous export figure for a year struck by unpredictability and challenges to trade. The scenario could have been more devastating, however, the industry’s hard work paid off. In fact, 2020 exports to the EU increased one per cent compared to the same period in 2019 (Jan-Oct). When COVID-19 hit the world, the harvesters and processors in our province did an excellent job rising to the challenge. Exports were unavoidably down, but could have been much worse.”
Colwell said “Government made it a priority to help the seafood industry, as an essential food service, adapt and respond to changing market and operational conditions during these difficult times. 2020 saw a record number of Atlantic Fisheries Fund (AFF) projects which shows the industry’s continued confidence and willingness to invest in their business with a view to industry growth during and after the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic. The AFF will continue to be an important industry-development tool into 2021 and beyond.”
“We have also increased the capital available to the Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board by $175 million to a maximum of $400 million. Increasing the value of our exports remains one of our priorities. To accomplish this, we’ve continued to focus on quality and building the N.S. Seafood brand locally and in overseas promotions. The pandemic also highlighted domestic food security as an area of special focus, and we continue supporting the industry in various ways to ensure food security remains a priority,” the minister added.
Colwell said the Nova Scotia Government “will continue to put forward great efforts to maintaining existing relationships while developing new ones to grow Nova Scotia’s market access for seafood. For example, in December, we forged a new bond with Fujian province in China, signing a formal twinning agreement and an MOU with Yonghui Superstore at a virtual ceremony that included Fujian government leaders, corporate representatives, Premier McNeil, me and other provincial representatives. This kind of relationship building will help us rebuild and diversify our exports affected by COVID-19 conditions.”
He noted that the December sinking of the Chief William Saulis with the loss of all six hands “provided a stark reminder that fishing can be a dangerous way to make a living. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those lost on the Chief William Saulis and everyone else who has lost a loved one at sea. We will continue to support industry efforts around safety because tragic incidents like this remind us that coming home safely to your family is the most important thing.”
Looking ahead, “we are hopeful to see the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine and how that will help to calm global market uncertainty,” said Colwell.
“It will undoubtably take time, but we are optimistic and confident that Nova Scotia’s seafood industry is up to the task to meet and overcome any challenges that 2021 may bring. Despite these COVID-19 times, Nova Scotia’s seafood industry has the history, the committed workers, the strategic leadership, and the ongoing support of our government to maintain a prosperous position in world markets in 2021.”