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Seafood Market in China: Increasing Demand for Imported Products丨FOOD2CHINA MOMENTS
Post Time:2020-11-17Author:FOOD2CHINA-CARMEN

Seafood consumption in China.

Due to its large population base, China has become the world's largest seafood market. Statistics show that the global annual seafood consumption is 144 million tons, and in China it's 65 million tons, which is five times higher than the second-largest European Union's 13 million tons.

As living standards have improved, China's per capita aquatic consumption has risen steadily, from 11.5 kilograms in 1990 to 25.4 kilograms in 2004. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, per capita seafood consumption in China will reach 35.9 kilograms in 2020 [1].  

In 2019, 78% of China's seafood products were from aquaculture (rearing/cultivating of aquatic animals), while only 22% were captured. Aquaculture in China accounts for nearly 70% of world aquaculture production.

comparison-of-aquaculture-and-capture-products-in-china-from-2015-2019-1.pngComparison of Aquaculture and Capture Products in China from 2015-2019, ChemLinked

 Premium/imported seafood is gaining momentum.

 Premium seafood appreciated by Chinese consumers include lobster, crab, salmon, oysters, shrimp, sea cucumbers and many others. They tend to place more trust on seafood’s' origins, like lobsters from Canada and Australia, oysters from France, and salmon from Norway.

The rapid development of new retail model businesses like Freshippo (Hema) from Alibaba Group is the perfect reflection of Chinese consumers, especially the post-80 generation's increasing demand for premium seafood products.

king-crab.jpgKing Crab from Russia in Freshippo supermarket, the Internet

lobster-oyster-and-salmon-in-freshippo-app.pngLobster, Oyster and Salmon in Freshippo App, the Internet

Freshippo allows the consumer to shop online through its app and pick products directly in its physical stores. It integrates supermarkets, restaurants, e-commerce merchants with logistics. It had 250 stores by 2019 with a 67.8% annual increase in store numbers and had the fastest growth in sales among all chain supermarkets in China. 

According to China Custom, China imported 6.27 million tons of aquatic products in 2019, up 19.9 percent year-on-year. The import value of aquatic products was US $18.7 billion, up 25.6 percent year-on-year [2]. It has become the world's second-largest aquatic product import market, second only to the United States. 

The top 10 origins of seafood exporting to China were Russia, Ecuador, India, Canada, Vietnam, the United States, Indonesia, Australia, Norway and Thailand. Imports from these ten countries accounted for nearly 70 percent of China's total seafood imports.

The top 10 regions for seafood imports in China were Shandong, Beijing, Liaoning, Guangdong, Shanghai, Fujian, Tianjin, Zhejiang, Jilin, Jiangsu, accounting for 93.6 percent of the country's total seafood imports.

The top 10 most popular seafood imports in the Chinese market were:

  1. Frozen prawns - Ecuador

  2. Rock prawns - Australia, New Zealand and Mexico

  3. Frozen Pollock - Russia 

  4. Crab - Russia and Mexico

  5. Atlantic salmon - Norway and Chile

  6. Frozen cod - Russia, Norway and the US

  7. Frozen cuttlefish and squid

  8. Lobster - Canada, Australia and the US

  9. Frozen catfish fillets

  10. Frozen Greenland plaice

Promising import categories

Prawn: In 2019, the total consumption of prawn in China exceeded 2.1 million tons, including 1.28 million tons of domestic aquaculture, 200,000 tons of capture. A total of 810,000 tons of prawns were imported, accounting for over 30% of total consumption.

Salmon: China's salmon market is currently about 110,000 tons and growing at a yearly rate of 10%, with consumption likely to surplus 200,000 tons by 2025. Last year, Norwegian seafood exports to China reached 168,000 tons (including 25,000 tons of salmon) and totaled 5.2 billion Norwegian kroner (4.14 billion yuan), a 40 percent increase from 2018. 

The big-size items - Lobster & King Crab: China's total sales of lobster in 2019 were 8 billion yuan. In 2016, total US lobster exports to China had valued at $136 million, accounting for 14% of total US lobster exports. In 2018 import of lobster from the US to China reached 1,232 tons.

China is the world's largest king crab consumer market. In 2019, China imported over 10,000 tons of king crab, which was only 1,500 tons in 2015. Statistics show Shanghai's import of king crab from Russia ballooned by 950% in 2019 compared with the same period in 2018 to reach 850 tons [3]. With lower retail prices and sufficient supply, king crab becomes more common and popular in China.

Seafood market in 2020

The outbreak of Covid-19 has impacted China and the global seafood market. According to the statistics, the import of seafood in China in the first quarter of 2020 fell by 27% from the fourth quarter of 2019, a 6.2% decline year on year. The value of import seafood in 2020 H1 declined by 16.5%.

Since June 2020, demand was gradually returning to 2019 levels and there are obvious increases in sales of seafood consumption during the National and Moon-Cake holiday. Boston lobster has been the most popular imported seafood due to lower prices since June with more than 60 tons daily wholesale volume, according to the General Manager from Shanghai Jiangyang Aquatic Products Market.  

Although the Chinese market has recovered earlier than other countries worldwide as the pandemic is well controlled, there's still impacts on seafood import. Except for the uncertainties of global production and supply, imported seafood's safety is a pressing issue. At least nine Chinese cities reported cases of imported frozen products contaminated with the novel coronavirus since early July. China's customs authority also suspended imports from three Ecuadorean shrimp producers on July 10 after samples collected from their shrimp's outer packaging tested positive for the virus in several places.

hema-virus-testing.jpegNotice on passing the nucleic acid test for each batch of imported seafood and meat in Freshippo supermarket, China Daily

At ChemLinked, we assume China's seafood imports will slightly drop in 2020 due to the global pandemic and trade tension uncertainty. But in the long term, the seafood market is a booming sector as increasing amount of Chinese consumers would like to taste fresh and quality products, and they regard seafood as an excellent source of protein and light in calories. The problem is to make sure it’s safe and available. 


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