China’s economy causes slump in seafood imports from this country

U.S. seafood exports to China are down 10 percent on the same period last year, in part due to China's slowing economy, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture official in China.

Whereas U.S. seafood imports into mainland China are down both in volume and value terms, there has however been a modest increase in prices, according to Bruce Zanin, director of the seafood section of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) office in Beijing. The USDA flew eight buyers from Beijing to the ongoing Seafood Expo Asia in Hong Kong where they met with U.S. seafood firms, including a delegation from southern states put together by the Southern United States Trade Association.

On a more hopeful note, meanwhile, recent problems over certifications for U.S. exporters to China look set to be resolved. “We are on our way to a normal situation,” said Zanin, who explained how a group of Chinese officials from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) were recently in the U.S. touring the northeast and northwest. Zanin explained the problems emerged because a unit of AQSIQ, the Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) has been “going through a process of registering exporters and exported products.”

Slower economic growth in China is behind the fall in imports in 2015, Zanin believed. Still, China remains a growing market with huge buying power. Even though the United States struggles to supply the massive volume requirements of the Chinese market it’s vital to keep up with new products and new marketing methods, said Zanin. “For instance, a group from the wholesale market in Beijing are trying to put together a consortium which will enable them to collectively import seafood from the U.S. at worthwhile prices,” he explained.

China meanwhile may soon find itself paying more for U.S. crustaceans. While the United States accounts for 55 percent of global lobster supply there is likely to be a tightening of volume in the coming year, driving up prices. “In 2015 we are going back to a normal catch,” explained Tom Keegan, CEO of Cozy Harbor, a Maine-based lobster processor and exporter exhibiting in Hong Kong. “We have benefitted from record catches at the same time as Asian demand increased so we were able to supply that demand … but we expect availability will be tighter in the coming year.”


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