Handling over 1,500 tonnes of seafood daily, La Nueva Viga Market is the largest seafood market in Mexico and the second largest in the world, after the Tsukiji fish market in Japan. Most of the seafood is delivered to the Mexico City metropolitan area and the states surrounding it, but it is also distributed to other states and abroad.
La Nueva Viga represents 60% of the whole seafood business in Mexico. The market is located in Mexico City far inland from the coast because of historical patterns of commerce in the country. The facility extends over 9.2 hectares, with 202 wholesale warehouses, 55 retail warehouses and 165 sellers in total. Four warehouses have certified products and another 80 have been ranked for having excellent handling practices, expecting certification. While by far most of the businesses inside sell fresh and frozen fish, there are other businesses offering kitchen supplies, groceries and even banking. The market employs about 7,500 people, many of whom come from coastal areas and are used to the strong odour of fish that permeates the interior. Between 20,000 and 25,000 customers pass through the facility on any given day.
Workdays at the market start early, at 4 am, when trucks loaded with fresh seafood arrive. From 6 am, when stalls open to 6 pm, the market is filled with shouts of merchants attracting customers, as well as the sounds of blades as mountains of fish and other seafood are gutted, chopped and otherwise prepared.
La Nueva Viga handles the largest volume of seafood and has the largest assortment of ocean products in Mexico. Approximately 300 different fresh and frozen species and approximately 100 imported frozen species are marketed every day in this supply centre. This includes every kind of fish imaginable, to shellfish, shrimp, and even sharks and manta rays.
Most of the seafood is domestic, but products imported from five continents can be found too. The seafood comes from all the coasts of Mexico, but most domestic produce comes from the Gulf of Mexico. There is a website dedicated to the inventory of the market, which is updated daily. Most of the seafood sold there is sent to other states and exported, as well as sold to local restaurants and retail markets. 70% of the product sold goes to the city and the neighbouring states of Hidalgo, Tlaxclas, Puebla, Morelos and State of Mexico. Much of the exported wares are the most expensive, such as sea bass, shrimp, and lobster. However, the most economical species are often not sold in Mexico either as they are unknown to most people’s dietary habits. By far, the most popular seafood sold there and in the rest of Mexico is shrimp, followed weakly by mojarra. For popular species of fish, vendors report that little is wasted. However, an estimated 7 tonnes of product per day consisting of less popular species is wasted because it does not sell in time. While stalls selling fresh and frozen fish dominate the market, there are a number of other businesses in the facility as well. The market also has many prepared food stands selling tamales, tacos, cocktails, fillets and other seafood dishes. There are also businesses selling knives, copper cookware, other kitchen utensils, groceries, as well as banks and government offices.
One major challenge to the market is the decline in sales of domestically produced seafood. By some estimates, it has fallen as much as 40%. Another problem is that although the market is only fifteen or so years old, the facility has experienced severe deterioration in that short time.
Vendors at the market claim that the decline in sales is caused by competition from foreign seafood, but in fact most of it stems from the lack of promotion of seafood by federal government officials. Due to free trade agreements, seafood from countries such as China, Panama and Chile is present at the market and now accounts for about 10% of the sales. Another major problem is insufficient drainage, leading to bacterial build-up and causing the interior to smell very strongly. However, there are also serious problems with the facility’s ceilings and floors as well. Renovation costs are estimated at 100 million pesos.
La Nueva Viga Market is the largest seafood market in Mexico and the second-largest in the world.
The market employs about 7,500 people and between 20,000 and 25,000 customers pass through the facility on any given day.
Approximately 300 different fresh and frozen species and approximately 100 imported frozen species are marketed every day in this supply centre.