Tuna fished in the EC represents up to 62% of the national
Contrary to several businesses, the tuna producing market in Ceará reached the status of the largest supplier among Brazilian states in less than five years of operation. Of the 27 thousand tons generated annually in the country, between 13 thousand and 17 thousand depart from Ceará territory, according to Euvaldo Bringel, businessman and former secretary of Agriculture and Fisheries of Ceará, which represents up to 62% of the volume of fish in the country .
The former secretary points to the activity as the latest local discovery. In just one month, an average of 1.1 million kilos are fished through 130 boats that are currently operating on the coast of the state.
And the volume is constantly growing since this market appeared in Ceará. In 2017, 12 thousand tons of tuna were produced, a number that grew 50% last year, reaching 18 thousand tons, according to Silvio Carlos Ribeiro, director of Agribusiness at the Ceará State Development Agency (Adece). "For 2019, we should reach 24 thousand tons easy - an advance of 33%", he points out.
About the ways that the product reaches the consumer, Euvaldo Bringel clarifies that the local tuna production has three main destinations.
"Around 30% is here in the state for consumption in restaurants, a good part is also going to the sushi market throughout Brazil and the rest is for the frozen and canned food industries", he details. In Ceará, there are five freezing industries and one conservation industry.
The activity has obtained so many good results that financial institutions have shown interest in financing the construction of tuna fishing vessels. "Banco do Brasil and Banco do Nordeste are going to start financing the boats and also technologies that are already used in other countries that help, for example, to monitor the schools", says Silvio Carlos. In addition, the construction of a specific port for tuna fishing in Itarema is planned.
Euvaldo Bringel mentions that the number of active fishermen even increased with the rise of tuna. "The fishermen's children no longer wanted to follow their parents' profession. But seeing the profitability of the business, the younger ones returned to seeing fishing as a way of life."
In all, about 800 fishermen across the state are involved in this aquaculture activity, according to Silvio Carlos. "And there are still many people interested in getting into the business. There are people migrating from lobster fishing to tuna, because there are fewer complications, there is no closed season, scarcity, on the contrary, there is a lot of supply and among fish it is one of the meats most valued", he highlights.
With a still very strong domestic market, exports of tuna produced in Ceará have not yet started. "It's like shrimp. Exports are almost non-existent because we have a domestic market that absorbs all production and pays well, so we don't need to export," explains the agribusiness director at Adece.
However, Ribeiro believes that the State has the potential for this and has even mentioned possible destinations. "I believe that we have a market mainly in the United States and Europe, despite the European continent having a tradition in this fish. We can find characteristics in the fish here that attract the foreign market", he points out.
Ceará has stood out in tuna fishing, where boats from Ceará receive up to 17 thousand tons of fish, which represents more than half of the 27 thousand tons generated annually in Brazil
One of the difficulties that still exist in the tuna market in Ceará is the issue of product conservation. The cold cut cabins need to be expanded to accommodate the entire volume being fished.
The regularization of the fleet of vessels used is also an issue that needs to be worked on. Currently, according to the Institute of Marine Sciences (Labomar) of the Federal University of Ceará (UFC), the market has around 130 registered boats.
The training of professionals is an area that requires investment in order to reach a satisfactory percentage of fish considered to be of high quality.
Tired of losing fish to buyers who pay pennies more, Miguel Shoiti Kikuchi decided to start catching tuna too, instead of just selling it. Miguel bought a boat about three years ago and obtained very good results, fishing up to eight tons per month. Currently, Shoiti already has four vessels.
"For 2019, expectations are for growth, not in terms of volume, but of quality. We intend to end the year with 50% of production going to sashimi," adds the producer.
Shoiti also highlights that the amount invested in the first vessel was recovered in the first year, a period whose results were exceptional, but which still has not managed to get a return on the investment made in the last two years. "We hope that in two years we will have a surplus again".
Producer and industrialist Elizeu Monteiro also started in the business about five years ago and already has a fleet of five boats fishing up to 65 tons per month, depending on the time of year and sea conditions. Of these, 60% go to industry and the rest to the fresh market.
"We even employed, directly and indirectly, around 3,000 people," says Monteiro. The plans are to achieve growth of up to 30% in 2019 and start exporting in 2020, with possible buyers in the United States and also countries in Asia.