NPC delegate spells out grim demographic challenge facing China’s aquaculture sector

Published on
March 15, 2021

China’s aquaculture sector is challenged by worsening demographics and low tech, as well as a lack of finance.

That was the downbeat assessment of aquaculture executive Du Ji, a delegate to the National People’s Congress, which meets for a week every year to determine China’s policy course. Du runs Nanchong Wu Hua Aquaculture Co., which farms freshwater species for sales to China’s domestic market.

Representing the city of Nanchong in Sichuan Province, Du told delegates at this year’s NPC meeting, which ended 11 March, that depopulation of rural China means the age profile of aquaculture farmers is becoming worryingly high.

Largely due to urbanization, China’s rural workforce (people aged 15 to 64) is expected to shrink drastically in the coming decade, according to Global Demographics, a Hong Kong-based consultancy. It projects the rural workforce will shrink from 452 million to 194 million while the urban workforce will balloon from 526 million to 703 million between 2007 and 2037.

The demographic shift poses a major challenge to China’s aquaculture industry, which was built largely on the availability of cheap rural labor. As part of an effort targeted at eliminating rural poverty, China has sought to link rural producers into urban consumer demand by subsidizing major online retailers like JD.com to set up logistics operations in rural areas, using their vast customer base to create high-value demand for rural food and seafood products.

In his public remarks, Du also said a lack of scientific advice and extension services needed to be rectified through increased government funding.

“Disease prevention methods are poor and value add is low,” Du said.

Du said finance remains a challenge, as Chinese state-owned banks decline to lend to smallholders, often due to worries over collateral. He said more subsidies and specific rural-focused government financing for the aquaculture sector would help solve this problem.

Du also asked for more training to increase the quality of Chinese aquaculture products, and additional assistance with branding and marketing. He also wants the government to help automate the aquaculture sector in China.

Photo courtesy of lzf/Shutterstock

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