China: growing, driving but challenging the global seafood market

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags International trade China

China's increasing domestic demand for seafood, impacting on the global market
China's increasing domestic demand for seafood, impacting on the global market
China has a snowballing interest in the seafood market and while this is driving the global industry, it is also putting pressure on it, according to industry expert.

Earlier this month, the 16th Fisheries and Seafood Expo in China marked the largest show yet, with over 15,000 visitors and more than 800 exhibitors, highlighting the growing interest in seafood.

Peter Redmayne, president of Sea Fare Expositions, the co-organisers of the event, told FoodNavigator-Asia that China is extremely strong and is driving the seafood industry but there are concerns that the increasing domestic demand will impact global activity.

He noted that China is the world’s largest seafood exporter but that such is the domestic demand, that this produce is now increasingly being consumed by Chinese consumers instead.

As a result of this, prices have been driven higher, he added.

“As increased demand from China is driving up prices, it makes these products more difficult to sell in China’s traditional export market,”​ Redmayne noted.

Similarly, there is more pressure on China’s reprocessing industry where costs are also rising, not only from high raw material prices but also a need to increase wages and focus on labour-saving technology as capacity is challenged, Redmayne added.

China’s seafood imports and exports in 2010 were pegged at $20.3bn, shifting the country into the spot of global leader in seafood trading.

Its exports represented over three-quarters of this market.

Domestic demands

According to Redmayne, many Chinese seafood exporting companies are shifting their focus from overseas buyers to their own market as demand in the country is so strong.

Redmayne said that a fast growing area of interest for Chinese consumers is the emergence of convenient, value-added seafood products.

“Chinese consumers typically like to buy live or whole seafood. However, a new generation of Chinese consumers, many of whom shop at international chains like Carrefour or Wal-Mart, are looking to buy more convenient food products,”​ he explained.

One of China’s largest shrimp exporters, Zhanjiang Guolian Aquatic Products Co. Ltd, has rolled out a line of value-added shrimp products to the Chinese market.

There is also an increasing appetite for imported produce, he said.

American lobster imports increased tenfold this year to almost 1,000 metric tons compared to less than 100 last year.

Exports to China of live Dungeness crabs were also up another 60% this year through September to almost 10,000 metric tonnes, about half of the US catch.

Paying the price

Redmayne said: “The Chinese have more money. Wages are increasing 30% a year and there are now 250 million Chinese considered middle class, and by 2020, that number will rise to 700 million,”​ he explained.

“To say the Chinese market is red hot is an accurate statement… while Chinese seafood consumption has always been growing, we’ve never seen anything like this,” ​he concluded.

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