While the United States of America continues to be the main destination for canned tuna from Thailand, Middle Eastern countries have shown a growth in appetite for tuna in 2018.

Overall, the Middle East’s imports from Thailand remain strong with last year at 140,296 M/T, a 25 percent jump from the 2017.

According to data from Thai Customs, analyzed by Atuna, the US market is responsible for 19 percent of the Thai processor exports, at 98,971 M/T. However, Egypt almost doubled its canned tuna imports, to 75 percent of Thai exports, accounting for 50,345 M/T of the total volume. This is a massive comeback after imports dramatically collapsed in 2017. 

Volumes sent to the Egyptian market are usually consumed within the domestic market, with a part being exported to Sudan. Egypt does not have a processing plant and relies heavily on imports. 

With Egypt paying on average USD 3.161 per M/T CFR for its canned tuna, the nation is the lowest-priced destination for Thai canners in the Middle East. This lower price is due to the very high consumption of shredded and flaked tuna products. This in sharp contrast with importers in Saudi Arabia who paid USD 4.320 per M/T of net weight. 

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel have shown growth in canned tuna deliveries, at 24 percent and 9 percent respectively. War-stricken zones such as Syria and Yemen also bought almost double the 2017 volumes. 

“The Middle East is an important emerging market for Thai companies, especially for the seafood sector. Because of the EU lifting the yellow card from Thailand, we have also seen a growth in the confidence of other markets, especially in combatting IUU fishing,” Prasit Sujiravorakul, investment analyst at Bualuang Securities told Atuna.

Some countries, nonetheless, have shown a decrease in imports, such as UAE at 25 percent and Jordan at 33 percent. 

Generally, Middle Eastern countries have paid cheaper CFR price than the USA, which paid the fourth highest price next to Japan, Australia and Canada.

The average CFR price paid per ton of Thai canned tuna purchased across all major markets was USD 4,375 in 2018, which is 1 percent lower than 2017.