China’s aquaculture growth continues to slow, pelagic surges

Published on
August 22, 2014

China’s seafood output in the first half of the year edged upwards but the runaway contributor to production growth is the country’s increasing pelagic catch. From January to June the national aquatic output of 26.16 million metric tons (MT) was up 3.4 percent on the same period in 2013 according to data collected by the ministry of agriculture from the country’s 20 main fishery producing provinces.

While the ministry doesn’t provide values in the data, the latest figures shows China’s fisheries output is growing at a slower pace than seen in earlier years: output rose 4.5 percent in volume terms in 2013 and grew at over 5 percent in each of the five years up to 2012.

There’s also slower growth in the amount of land available for aquaculture. China in the first half of this year had 7.62 million hectares being used for aquaculture, up 3.81 percent over the previous year. Of that figure 6.32 million hectares were used in freshwater aquaculture production. Meanwhile, sea based aquaculture (mariculture) accounted for 1.59 million hectares. Year on year growth in land area going to aquaculture use was in excess of 8 percent a decade ago. 

A tightening of China’s land supply, in part due to pollution as well as industrial and real estate development, means production through mariculture is likely to increase. Seawater production grew at 30 percent year on year in 2012, twice the rate of growth of freshwater aquaculture, according to the most recent government data.

According to another survey, ocean-going fisheries output was “outstanding” at 476,600 MT in the first half of 2014, a year on year increase of 64 percent. This is due to an expansion in China’s fleet. “The new production figures show the benefits of 329 new offshore fishing vessels have begun to appear,” said the ministry report. China’s pelagic catch totaled 1.3 million MT, up 6 percent in output value to RMB 14 billion (USD 2.3 billion, EUR 1.7 billion).

Meanwhile, at the consumer level, the ministry’s collection of data from 47 aquatic wholesale markets showed 3.59 million MT of aquatic products were sold in the first half of the year, with turnover at RMB 78.7 billion (USD 12.8 billion, EUR 9.6 billion). According to the statement from the ministry “…the fish market was stable in the first half of this year, despite the impact of downward pressure on the economy.”

By that the ministry is referring to softer GDP growth, caused in part the splurge of credit released in 2009 in a government stimulus plan. This has turned up a wave of bad debts at banks and other government financial vehicles.

The ministry of agriculture’s statement also alludes to a drop in sales of “famous” seafood products by which it likely means sea cucumbers and abalone.

“But big business was still active, the market's overall rhythm is still healthy” said the statement.

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