10 percent surge in China's seafood retail sales due to COVID measures

Published on
February 17, 2022
Seafood retail prices surged by 10 percent in China in the second half of 2021, according to a Shanghai-based seafood marketing executive.

Seafood retail prices surged by 10 percent in China in the second half of 2021, according to a Shanghai-based seafood marketing executive.

“The price increases were much more apparent for the second half of 2021 and retail price increases averaged around 10 percent,” said Robin Wang, chief executive of SMH International, which works with several major Western seafood-export trade groups. “Prices for a range of imported goods [like] salmon, shrimp, and more are definitely higher due to COVID-related freight costs, testing, [and] certificates. Many companies worked hard to stomach costs early on but now, we are seeing some of them passed on to the consumer.”

Wang saw strong sales and consumer sentiment during the recent Chinese New Year.

“Pre-holiday inventory levels for this year were higher than last year – there were no trips abroad and more domestic trips, and the HRI [hotel, restaurant and institutional] industry has picked up. There was a lot of positive sentiment. Compared with last year, there was a big improvement with retail sales,” he told SeafoodSource. “While COVID has driven prices up and China has upped its management of frozen goods and imported seafood, recovery is still underway but still behind pre-pandemic levels. Many clients are looking to at least maintain their marketing level, especially as seafood consumption continues to grow in China each year, and the market seeks out higher-quality goods.” 

As for what’s in store for the Chinese seafood market in the year ahead, Wang is placing no bets.

“No doubt, China is still adhering to its zero-tolerance approach [to COVID] and will be very touch and go based on future cases,” he said. “Extra precautions were taken for Spring Festival and the Winter Olympics and are still being employed. After these events, there may be somewhat of a short-term improvement.”

However, Wang said he is seeing weaker sales in Hong Kong, where the government has restricted dining after 6 p.m. and recently imposed an all-day ban on in-store dining due to a surge in new COVID cases in the city.

“Food import restrictions have also risen, [and] this is limiting supplies and driving up seafood costs.”

Online sales have been a bright spot in an otherwise bleak sales environment, according to Wang.

“Importers and traders will be focusing more efforts into these channels,” Wang said. “The importers and traders are hopeful more stability can be achieved and allow for easing restrictions to the HRI [hotel, retail, and institutional foodservice] sector.”

Photo courtesy of StreetVJ/Shutterstock

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