Seafood processors, buyers banned, for now, from Nova Scotia

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No problem out West: a new processor in western Canada

Rivalries simmer, as province puts the freeze on processor and buyer growth in Nova Scotia ahead of an overhaul of licensing rules

Primary seafood processors and buyers along the waterfront in Nova Scotia want a recent ban on new entrants in the sector to become permanent, the CBC has reported.

The Nova Scotia government is reviewing the license regime for the segment, and the province’s many small and medium-sized processors are lobbying to have protection against new players included. It is understood that their fears revolve around larger new players controlled from abroad or from out-of-province —  something license applications can easily identify.

Fishermen pressure
To assist the review now underway, the Nova Scotia government this week placed the temporary issuing stop on new buying and processing licenses for shoreside businesses. The Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance of 50 buyers and processors has said it wants “limited entry” for newcomers to be made permanent.

“Long-term, we want limited entry because it protects the investment, infrastructure, dollars (and the) time put in by the existing processors,” Osborne Burke, general manager of the fisherman-owned Victoria Co-operative Fisheries was quoted by the CBC as saying. The company is based in Cape Breton.

“In many circumstances, we have overcapacity,” Burke — who is also president of the Seafood Alliance — was quoted by the broadcaster as saying. The Alliance boss suggested there may not be enough seafood raw material supply in the province to feed existing processors.

Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister, Keith Colwell

Consolidation, shortage
The province has 206 licensed processing facilities and 323 registered fish buyers. Of these, 144 are independent buyers; 15 are retail buyers and 164 are processor-buyers.

The CBC quoted a lobster fisherman as saying the move looks like an attempt to “stifle competition at the wharf” by limiting the number of buyers to those already well-established. That accounted for the lobsterman, fisherman rivalry, but many processors list farmed Atlantic salmon as one of their processed species.

In the background, however, a wave of consolidation and partnerships at processors in neighboring Newfoundland might have left them feeling vulnerable. Processors there appear already to be working for or in-sync with, in some cases, integrated salmon-farming and wild-catch companies, judging by a long list SalmonBusiness has seen where processors give their own and an integrated seafood player’s name as contact info.

Then there’s Maritime Canada’s chronic labor shortage.

Easily ID’d
The office of Nova Scotia’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister, Keith Colwell — who was born on a New Brunswick apple-growing farm — said the province imposed the freeze on new entrants to stop “speculators” rather than to stop competition. The Minister’s office said it needed the freeze to update a 90’s-era Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act that includes a longstanding ban on new ground fish plant licenses (the Act covers the Fish Buyers’ Licensing and Enforcement Regulations).

New buyers or processors are easily identified by having a brand new or no Canadian Food Inspection Agency Registration Certificate number. Newcomer license applications ask a number of questions that include “places where products will be marketed”, or “Who will market the fish” and — for buyers of new plant — “In the past, has this facility been used to process the species for which you are applying.”

In addition, processors file monthly and annual processing reports with the provincial government.

Despite its size as Canada’s second-smallest province, Nova Scotia exports seafood to over 75 countries and earned CAD 1.8 billion in part through the work of a growing number of buyers, including those buying for Chinese and American seafood firms.