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USDA Grant Will Fund Seafood Marketing Research in New Jersey
Study Focuses on Consumers and Producers of Live Seafood


7/14/05

(TRENTON) – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with Rutgers University and the University of Delaware, has received a grant from the USDA to help promote the production and consumption of locally grown live seafood products.

The $56,500 matching grant from the USDA’s Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP), will fund a survey of consumers, producers, wholesalers and buyers in the Northeast about consumption of live fish, shellfish and other seafood products that will result in a central resource to facilitate sales.

“We are very pleased to have received this grant, as it will help further our efforts of promoting the bounty of New Jersey’s waters,” said Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus. “Seafood – both wild-harvested and farm-raised --
is an integral part of our Garden State’s working agricultural landscape, and the live markets are an important component of the seafood sector, especially in the ethnic markets.”

The project funded by the grant will begin in September and take about a year to complete. The NJDA will work with the Department of Food and Resource Economics at Rutgers to conduct a survey of people from various ethnic groups to define the customer base for live seafood. The Department and Rutgers also will develop and publish, in several different languages, a directory of live markets throughout the Northeast to make locating them easier for consumers. Finally, the Department will work with the Sea Grant and College of Marine Science at the University of Delaware to compile and publish a list of both live markets and producers of live seafood products so producers and buyers can better locate each other.

Secretary Kuperus pointed to other efforts by the Department to improve the marketing of New Jersey seafood. They include:

· Establishment of a “Jersey Seafood” brand modeled on the highly successful “Jersey Fresh” campaign for locally grown produce, along with a Jersey Seafood website, www.jerseyseafood.nj.gov.
· Awarding of Aquatic Farmer Licenses to allow producers to demonstrate definitive ownership of the organisms being cultured and reduce the introduction of exotic pests that could be detrimental to wild stocks and other aquatic farms
· Working with a group of seven aquaculture producers to market bagged clams under the Jersey Seafood brand name

The FSMIP grants were awarded to those projects that exhibited new and innovative approaches to marketing U.S. food and agricultural products and improve efficiency and performance of the marketing system, USDA officials said. In all, more than $1.3 million in money was awarded to projects in 20 states and Puerto Rico.

“These projects are excellent examples of the benefit of investing in new marketing opportunities for U.S. agriculture,” said Deputy U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner.

Secretary Kuperus noted the timing of the grant award was appropriate because it comes as New Jersey prepares to host the North American Agricultural Marketing Officials (NAAMO) annual conference for the first time in that group’s 84-year history on July 17-20 in Atlantic City.

“We recognize in New Jersey how important innovative marketing is to sustaining a viable agricultural industry,” Secretary Kuperus said. “One of the sessions at the NAAMO conference covers marketing to a diverse population, and this FSMIP grant is a prime example of how we are working to address these new and diverse marketing opportunities.”

For more information on the live seafood project, contact the NJDA’s Fish and Seafood Program at (609) 984-2502 or via e-mail at joseph.myers@ag.state.nj.us

Additional information:

The Northeast has a great diversity of people from all parts of the world. Many of the live seafood markets in the region are typically Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese food markets in urban areas, typically with a high Asian population. These consumers perceive value in buying fish and shellfish live, and are willing to pay a premium for the opportunity to pick out, while it is still swimming, the exact fish they want to take home for dinner that night.

In addition to the Far East, people from other cultures of Eastern European, Middle Eastern, Latin American and African descent also may be interested in buying their fish live. There may be some cultural barriers, and everyone who may be interested in buying live fish may not be aware of all of the places where they can do so.

Selling fish and shellfish live is one of the simplest ways for small-scale aquaculture producers and fishermen to market seafood products. Selling and buying a live product is nothing new to shellfish, but fish are mostly sold processed, so in the whole picture of seafood sales, live fish sales are a niche opportunity. The idea is not to make everyone buy live fish, the idea is to facilitate these existing marketing channels. The investment, regulatory compliance, and large volume of raw product needed to make processing fish profitable is in many cases not feasible for smaller producers. The equipment needed to haul fish live is much less expensive. Producers can also contract with live haulers. There is a large body of technical literature on how to provide the right conditions for the fish during transport as to maximize survival. The producer gets a premium price for delivered live fish over and above what he/she would get for a fresh, iced product on-the-round.

This project really has the potential to benefit everyone involved in live fish and shellfish sales: producer to consumer.

Customers will have better awareness of where they can buy the products they want. Everyone knows there is a strong relationship between food and culture, and people place a high importance on the two. We hope that people will be able to locate products that better enable one to enjoy these aspects. This project should also benefit the bottom line of the owners and operators of these ethnic markets. Greater awareness means more customers visiting these supermarkets will not only buy more live seafood, but other goods that are sold in the supermarket. Aquaculture producers and fishermen will hopefully be able to be more profitable. Greater demand for live seafood will mean more sales. Not only will producers better be able to locate markets that may be more profitable for them, market owners will be able to locate a supplier for a particular species of fish and shellfish they were previously unable to locate.







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