Presidents Report – Aug 2020

Welcome to our latest edition of the OFI Journal! There is no doubt this year has been one that has been very challenging, and the past few months have certainly been an unprecedented time in modern history, the COVID 19 pandemic has spread to most countries around the world and tragically touched many people around the world. My condolences to anyone who has lost family and friends in the pandemic.
COVID 19 has impacted our lives in many ways, and our industry like many others has been significantly affected. The international supply lines of ornamental fish rely heavily on the airline industry to link producers and exporters to major markets in Europe, USA, Japan etc. and successful exporting countries like Singapore have developed exports of ornamental fish in large part due to flight connectivity to these major markets. However, most governments around the world have implemented travel restrictions and some have even closed their borders to reduce COVID-19 spread which has resulted in many cancellations of international flights. Distribution of fish has therefore proved challenging for most of the industry. In some countries such as Nigeria and Peru there has been a virtual shut-down of all international flights and in some cases, airlines have stopped shipping live fish as part of their downsizing of operations. It is unclear how long these freight pressures will continue. The combination of reduced demand and travel restrictions in many countries has already cost the airline industries an estimated $880 billion in lost revenue and many are now struggling financially. This will no doubt lead to many of them closing permanently reducing freight capacity and some commentators suggest that demand for flights may not return to pre-COVID levels until late 2023. Therefore, there is potential for ongoing issues with airfreight capacity and costs to continue for some time yet. However, it is a relief to hear from some members that they are already seeing an easing of freight costs, and it is hoped that more international flights will resume soon which will help get the world economy moving, and hopefully allow more fish to be traded around the world. 

However, despite this gloomy setting, there are still fish making it through to importers and distributors in major markets. It would appear that the trade is busy with strong demand for ornamental fish and aquarium accessories in many of the major markets around the world. In fact, it appears that the whole pet trade is experiencing strong sales around the world. Traditionally our industry has always traded well with economic downturns when people tend to stay at home and concentrate on home-based activities including aquariums and pets. However, it would seem that ‘stay at home’ orders from many governments around the world forced people to stay at home has increased this effect, with the pet industry seeing strong demand around the world. In talking to people in industry, I continually hear that retail sales are up by 20 – 30% but some even report sales doubling in the past few months.

To meet this demand, and airfreight challenges many industry operators have made changes to their buying patterns, seeking more domestic supply, or having to source fish based on where flights allow, and often arriving at inconvenient days and times. There is also no doubt that domestic production facilities in major markets like USA, EU etc will likely be experiencing increased demand due to restricted imports for these markets due to flight availability and freight costs. While it is unclear what the longer-term impact will be, it seems that while the pandemic has made trading harder, demand is strong with increased sales – let's hope as the COVID situation improves that demand and sales continue to be strong.

The pandemic has also affected us in other ways, and notable among these is the delay of this years AGM and its transition to a web-based meeting. I think everyone who participated agreed that it was a great way to 'meet' and conduct the AGM. Since then, I have been asked by several members when we will be doing our next online meeting and we are hoping to bring some exciting news about this in the coming weeks. I would also like to congratulate the advisors that were voted back in and thank everyone for supporting me for another term as President. It's no doubt we face many challenges as an organisation with increasing pressures from stakeholders around the world that want to put a stop to our industry. There is also increasing pressures from increasing government regulation with regards to biosecurity, animal welfare, invasive alien species among many other issues. These pressures are far more powerful than we have previously seen, we must respond and adjust to these increased demands or see our industry spiral downwards. Part of this is developing a strategic plan or vision for OFI and our way forward over the coming years… A major part is looking at ways we can fund our response to the mounting pressures of new member categories, continuing to work closely with likeminded organisations and sharing resources etc. to extend our capacity. We are also looking to increase membership and looking to expand OFI membership by encouraging more members from the entire aquarium sector. We see a key part making OFI membership more attractive to specific sectors of the industry such as manufacturers by creating a number of membership categories that can cater more to these sectors. We will provide a summary of the AGM on the following page.

A final note to all our OFI family and friends. It's still unclear when this will end and as we speak, my home town of Melbourne Australia is in the grips of a second wave with a more severe outbreak than we initially experienced leading to an even more severe lockdown than was imposed than the first wave. Please stay safe and observe safe hygiene practices.

AGM Summary

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of Interzoo 2020, the decision to postpone the 2020 Annual General Meeting was unavoidable. With international travel extremely limited and no suitable venue to host the AGM likely we were left with 2 choices. The first was to cancel the 2020 AGM and look to 2021 or hold the 2020 AGM online – a first for our organisation. It was felt that this was the only viable option to hold the AGM under the current circumstances and offers the opportunity to all members to attend the meeting without the need to travel. DR Tim Miller-Morgan kindly offered to host the meeting via Zoom It was also decided to try and compact the AGM with a focus on delivering a summary of critical information as required by our constitution so there is more time for presentations and discussion – it is hoped that this is more useful for members and will be a continuing trend. Our Secretary General will be finalising and distributing the AGM minutes in the coming weeks however, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide a summary of some of the highlights. The first highlight is the 25 year jubilee of our Vice President Svein A. Fosså, and I take this opportunity to again thank him for his contributions to OFI and the pet trade in general!

One of the key functions of the AGM is to elect our board and there were no new nominations for these positions and all Board members were returned unopposed. The elected members were:

Shane Willis – President
Svein A. Fosså
Ekembra Koroye
Dr Tim Miller-Morgan
Lim Meng Huat

We also made a proposal to expand the number of advisors to include an advisor from Sri Lanka and Indonesia. These countries are major centres for production and export of ornamental fish and both represent large and significant numbers of OFI members with 46% of our membership from SE Asia. Currently these countries are not represented on the Board of Advisors and given the large numbers of members from each of these countries they should be represented. This was approved by the AGM and since then the Indonesian members have nominated Mr Rajanta Sinardja Rahardja from Bellenz Fish Farm in Jakarta as interim advisor until this is confirmed at the next AGM. Discussions are currently ongoing with Sri Lankan members for them to nominate an advisor from there.

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