The fishing industry is still one of the most important sectors in the Sicilian economy. The fish and seafood sector contains a myriad of businesses from the production and distribution process, including fishing companies, processing plants, distributors and wholesalers. This fragmentation is forcing businesses to form groups (fishing districts) in order to ensure economies of scale and obtain a greater market strength on the world market, thereby creating a strong brand and image immediately recognizable by consumers.
Recently, there has been a significant shift in the market towards 'high added-value' fish products, ready to eat or on sale in delicatessens. Furthermore, in the future we will see a large increase in processed fish products, such as fillets and other cuts, on a market which has traditionally been dominated by "whole" fish consumption.
There is an overall upward trend in the global consumption of fish products (due to the recent move towards healthier eating) with ever increasing demand for a range of products (ready meals or partially pre-cooked, and tinned fish salads) to suit new lifestyle trends (more women working, less regular meal times etc).
Sicily is one of the few regions in Italy where the sector has a positive trade balance with great potential not yet fully realised.
The most important export country for Sicilian products is Japan (pro-capita consumption of 90 Kg), followed by Spain, Greece and France. In Western Europe, the biggest consumers of fish are Portugal and Norway, with pro-capita consumption levels of 58.5% and 49.8% respectively.
The Scandinavian countries Sweden and Finland are also quite substantial fish consumers, both with a consumption of 30 Kg pro-capita. Lower down the consumption charts are countries such as Germany, Holland and Austria with a pro-capita consumption of less than 20 Kg (statistics source FAO).