Italy’s fish markets are feeling the impact, as the coronavirus spreads across the country. On 12 March, the Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte sanctioned the closure of all shops, apart from supermarkets and pharmacies, as the virus reached pandemic levels. Bars and restaurants will be off limits during the crackdown, which will remain in place until 25 March. The economic impact cannot be overstated.
The fresh seafood sector is one of the most acutely affected, with less fishing taking place. Moreover, demand for perishable goods is being replaced with the rising consumption of pasta, rice and canned foods, as consumers contemplate the prospect of a prolonged self-quarantine. One of Italy’s largest distributors of frozen and fresh seafood reported a slight increase in supermarket sales, partially offsetting the fall in catering revenues from bars and restaurants. The firm reported a 20% y-o-y loss in fish catering revenues with orders from Chinese restaurants falling by up to 80% over the period. The drop in demand from canteens attached to the education sector have also contributed to the decline in revenue. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the more diversified seafood distributors are best placed to face the coronavirus headwinds, i.e. those companies diversified between catering, retail and wholesale business.