The pisciculture sector is one of the most dynamically developing in the Greek economy over the last decade.
Greece is the largest producer of sea bass and sea bream in the Mediterranean. Organized involvement in pisciculture began in the 1980s, while substantive growth of the sector took place during the 1990s. Growth of the sector was contributed to by a combination of the climate and geo-morphological conditions in the country that favour the cultivation of euryhaline fish, subsidies provided by the State, the reduction in fish stocks and limitations imposed on fishery. Today the sector more than covers the needs of the Greek market and contributes to the gross product and the balance of trade for the country, while employing a significant number of individuals.
The favourable conditions prevailing over the previous decade led to a rapid increase in the number of businesses in the sector and the quantity of fry and fish produced, without appropriate planning, with the result that several problems were generated, the main one being the reduction in sale price.
Demand for fish from pisciculture is affected by the conditions prevailing in the fisheries market and is elastic in terms of price. Over recent years a major reduction in sale prices of fish from pisciculture has been observed, a fact which favours demand, since such fish acquire a comparative advantage in relation to substitute products. More specifically, the wholesale sale price for sea bream reduced from Euro 7,63/kilo in 1990 to Euro 3,46/kilo in 2002, and the price for sea bass from Euro 8,22/kilo to Euro 3,90/kilo respectively.
The trend prevailing over recent years for a healthier form of living has positively affected demand for fish from pisciculture. On the other hand, the modern lifestyle limits available time for preparing food and consequently favours demand for frozen compared to fresh fish products.
A large number of companies are active in the sector, involved with fattening of fish, while a much smaller number produce fry (hatcheries). There were 290 fish fattening enterprises in 2001, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, an increase of 17,4% compared to 1998 (247 enterprises). The number of fish hatcheries increased by 41,4% during the same period and stood at 41 enterprises in 2001.
The majority of enterprises in the sector are small. Nonetheless, a significant share of production is concetrated in the hands of four large groups (Selonda, Nireus, Hellenic Fishfarming and Seafarm). In relation to the sector's production costs, differences can be observed between vertically integrated copanies and fish fattening units. Fish feed accounts for the largest share of costs, followed by fry with a significant difference. The fluctuations in prices of fish feed combined with the reduction in the sale price of sea bream and sea bass have had direct impact on the profits of businesses in the sector.
The largest part of production has been destined for abroad over recent years, mainly towards other EU countries (approximately 56% of sea bass - sea bream production in 2002) via wholesalers or commercial networks belonging to the large companies in the sector. Sales on the domestic market are conducted primarily via wholesalers, fish markets and supermarkets.
Domestic production of sea bream and sea bass fry increased over the period 1990 - 2002 with an annual rate of growth of 31,7% and stood at 300 million fry in 2002, compared to 11 million fry in 1990. Vertically integrated companies sell the largest portion of their production (approximately 70%) to third parties.
The average annual rate of growth in domestic production of sea bream - sea bass between 1993 and 2002 was 26,7%, while over the period 1986 - 1992 an increase at the rate of 105,4% was recorded each year. In 2002 domestic production of sea bream - sea bass stood at 80,000 tons compared to 1,600 tons in 1990 and 100 tons in 1986. Sea bream has accounted for the largest part of production since 1995 onwards (56,3% in 2000.) According to assessments made by leading players in the sector and by ICAP, the real level of production in the sector ranges between 95,000 - 100,000 tons. This difference is due to the fact that producers frequently do not observe their production capacity licences and produce larger quantities, which are not declared. The sea bream - sea bass is a low concentration market with relatively low shares for even the largest enterprises.
Over the period 1990 - 2002 there was an annual average rate of growth in the order of 29% for domestic ostensible consumption of sea bream - sea bass with the figure reaching 317,2 million fry in 2002 compared to 15 million fry in 1990. Import penetration is limited, while exports only take place on an occasional basis. The main countries of origin of fry are France and Cyprus.
The domestic market in sea bream - sea bass increased with an annual average rate of 35,6% over the 1990 - 2002 period, from 905 tons to 35,000 tons. Over the same period, the quantities of sea bream - sea bass sold abroad presented an annual average rate of increase of 41,6% (from 695 tons to 45,000 tons). The main exports destinations are Italy, Spain and France.
The largest enterprises directly export significant parts of their production, resulting in the share of the Greek market they hold being at low levels. Moreover, certain countries are engaged in indirect exports via subsidiaries.
In the near future it is expected a restructuring of the sector, with the main feature being concentration at enterprise level, in order to achieve better control of production, increase in sale prices and minimization of unfair competition.
Cultivation of euryhaline fish in the Mediterranean Region is particularly well - developed. Over the period 1992 - 2000 production of sea bream - sea bass increased from 14,650 tons to 109,114 tons, with an annual average rate of increase of 28,5%. Greece is the largest producer country accounting for 54% of overall production in the Mediterranean and 64,2% of production in the EU in 2000. In 2001 Greece accounted for 59% of production among the Member States of the European Union. Significant quantities of sea bream - sea bass are also produced by Italy (16,6% of EU production) and Spain (15,5%) in 2001.
Production of sea bream - sea bass fry in the most important European countries increased from 364,4 tons in 1988 to 502,8 tons in 2001. Grecce accounted for 46,7% of production in 2001, followed by Italy (16,9%), Spain (12,9%) and France (8,5%).
Source: Athens Chamber of Commerce & Industry