Hema highlights local seafood for Dragon Boat festival discount blitz

Published on
June 30, 2020

China’s leading online-offline retailer of seafood is running a “buy national” seafood for the Dragon Boat holiday, which commenced 25 June.

Hema Fresh, which is controlled by online commerce giant Alibaba, stressed the local provenance of the seafood in a marketing campaign running through the weekend of 27 June.

Hema, which has long championed imported seafood as a clean, safe product, said its campaign is merely to “support” local suppliers that have been badly hurt by the coronavirus. Imported seafood has been an attractive generator of margins for Hema, whose clientele is largely middle-class.

To justify that claim, it points to the campaign’s discounted prices, with Chinese abalone selling from CNY 11.90 (USD 1.66, EUR 1.54) to CNY 6.9 (USD 0.96, EUR 0.89) apiece, while grouper prices have been dropped from CNY 59.90 (USD 8.38, EUR 7.78) to CNY 39.90 (USD 5.58, EUR 5.18) per fish, according to Hema promotion material displayed in store and online. One poster showed the characters for “national products” in bold.

“We are trying to limit the losses which our buyers have endured,” Hema Seafood Sourcing Manager Chen Hua told Chinese media at the launch event. Some Chinese firms have seen their sales fall by up to 80 percent compared to the same time last year as restaurants where premium species like grouper and abalone are normally served have closed due to coronavirus-related lockdowns.

Hua didn’t make any connection between the campaign and false claims linking a coronavirus outbreak to imported salmon sold at Beijing’s Xinfadi wholesale market. Chinese officials appear to be backing off their earlier statements hinting that there may be a connection between salmon and COVID-19, with the deputy head of the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) in Guangdong – the country’s wealthiest province and a key seafood consumption region – saying at a press conference on Wednesday, 24 June, that consumers can eat local or imported seafood without any worry. But the official, He Jian Feng, counseled that “clean water” should be used for cooking and that raw and uncooked foodstuffs be kept apart.

Backing efforts to reassure consumers, a propaganda campaign has swung into force nationally to reassure consumers about the safety of their seafood, with numerous photos in the state-controlled media showing uniformed SAMR inspectors in seafood stores and logistics centers examining seafood. However, it's not clear what percentage of product was tested for coronavirus, and the sheer scale of China’s retail market means a comparatively small inspectorate will be limited in its coverage.     

Photo courtesy of windmoon/Shutterstock

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