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Falkland Islands businesses were well represented at Conxemar 2019, the largest frozen seafood exhibition in Europe, (outside of the one held in Brussels). This is held in the Galician port city of Vigo in Spain, just north of the Portuguese border annually and has done so for the past 21 years. This year there were 37,000 international visitors to the show over the three days.
In addition to local fishing companies being represented there, it was also attended by SAAS, who had their own stand and by Directors Dylan Stephenson & Reuben Cofre of Southern Stevedores Ltd. It was decided to also send FIFCA Executive Secretary James Bates to the show and he summarises his visit below.
I went to Spain in the mind-set that this would be purely a, “work experience visit” which to a degree it was, but it very quickly became apparent to me that there was a lot more to be gained by it. Having carried out my role as Executive Secretary of the Falkland Islands Fishing Companies Association, (FIFCA) for over 2 years now, I have a pretty good understanding of how the industry works locally, so the trip to Vigo was an opportunity to learn how the industry works in unison with their joint venture Spanish partners. Historically, the Spanish partners provided much of the fisheries expertise and knowledge. I learnt of established business partnerships that go back decades and there was a tangible feeling of the regard the Spanish Joint Venture Partners have for their Falkland Islands counterparts. There was a strong feeling of co-dependency apparent and this has added to the success story that is the Falkland Islands Fishing Industry.
The first day of the Expo was about familiarising myself with the stands and getting a few bearings, before being formerly introduced to some Spanish partners. It was interesting to see new technologies on display and learn more about how our products sourced here are marketed and sold internationally. Having been on my feet all day, I was grateful for the invite of dinner by Copemar, who are the Spanish partners of Beauchene Fishing Company Limited. It felt unusual to be picked up in a taxi to go to supper at 9pm, (when ordinarily I have eaten by 7) but when in Rome…..
The second day was pretty much the same as the first, but I did have the opportunity to attend a couple of stands that caught my eye the day before, (that mainly deal with data and analysis for the EU). I spent some time also at the SAAS stand before heading back to my hotel once more.
That evening, I was graciously hosted by Armadora Pereira, who are the Spanish partners of Argos Group, where once again I had a really pleasant evening, right up until the last minute where I was invited to make a toast and speech not lasting more than 20 minutes. For those of you that don’t know me, public speaking is something that I am happy to steer well clear of, and I joked that I’d be wrapped up in less than 2!
Conxemar provides an ideal opportunity for local partners to meet with their Spanish counterparts in a less formal setting where they can discuss fishing related business and new ideas/approaches. With the wide international presence of many visitors it’s also a valuable opportunity to catch up with old friends and keep up with developments in the international seafood industry.
One thing I did learn from speaking to the Spanish partners that I met was that they consider the business they receive from the Falklands as vital to the region. It was said that upwards of 6000 jobs in Vigo depend on the business our fisheries provide, from marketing to ship-building and there was never a sense that this was taken for granted, only that they truly value their relationships with Falklands businesses. These relationships have endured and developed and largely allowed the Falkland Islands to develop a healthy and stable economy which is something we are all seeing the benefits from to this day, and long may those continue.
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