URBANA, Ill. -- Seafood seems to be going the way of many other industries in the U.S. In the past decade, the rate of imports has steadily increased. In fact, in 2004, imports made up 80 percent of the U.S. seafood market.

Due to this trend, aquaculture producers in Illinois and Indiana need to find new ways to turn a profit as they bring their fish to market, according to Kwamena Quagrainie, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant's new aquaculture marketing specialist. "Imported seafood is typically priced lower than these producers can compete with."

He offers several suggestions.

"Imported fish is usually shipped fresh or frozen so ethnic markets that sell live fish offer a niche for local producers," said Quagrainie. "Another approach is to add value to the product. For example, producers can get an advantage in the market by partnering with processors to produce ready-to-serve products for the food service industry."

He says producers should think about making money from more than just producing the fish.

Quagrainie, who is also funded through Purdue University Extension and University of Illinois Extension, comes to the Sea Grant program from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he was an assistant professor of aquaculture marketing for four years. Originally from Ghana, he received his doctorate in Agricultural Economics from the University of Alberta in Canada.

With his focus on marketing, Quagrainie will be working with the aquaculture industries, aquaculture producers, aquaculture associations, distributors, restaurants, retail outlets and consumers to develop viable markets for Indiana and Illinois farm-raised aquaculture products. First and foremost, he will provide assistance to aquaculture producers in pursuing and realizing economic and market development opportunities.

"My approach is to provide information to producers on how to be successful in today's market and how to keep their production costs competitive," he said.

Quagrainie is positioned at Purdue University in West Lafayette in the Department of Agricultural Economics and the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. He is beginning to plan aquaculture marketing workshops in several counties in Indiana to reach local producers.

"I look forward down the road to bringing these workshops to Illinois counties as well," he added.

He is also an author. Co-authored by Carole Engle of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, The Aquaculture Marketing Handbook has recently been released through Blackwell Publishing. This 288-page book provides a broad base of information regarding aquaculture economics, markets, and marketing.

For more information about aquaculture marketing in Illinois and Indiana contact Quagrainie at (765) 494-4200 or kquagrai@purdue.edu.

The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program is one of more than 30 National Sea Grant College Programs. Created by Congress in 1966, Sea Grant combines university, government, business and industry expertise to address coastal and Great Lakes needs. Funding is provided by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U. S. Department of Commerce, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana.

SOURCE: News release from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.