Seafood prices rise as China's fish farmers struggle to restock ponds


Keith and Eva, reporting for SeafoodSource from Guangdong and Guangxi provinces

Published on
March 5, 2008

Seafood prices are soaring at markets across China as fish farmers struggle to restock their ponds following the worst winter weather in 50 years.

Reports say there is no tilapia for sale in the south of China in the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi and Jiangxi, which could impact future export supplies. In the north, the price for tilapia, the country's most popular staple fish, has now reached $1 per pound wholesale.

The retail price of mud carp has doubled, with limited supplies in markets selling for $2.25 per pound.

A severe shortage of seedlings is also hampering farmers' ability to replenish their ponds, which were devastated by five weeks of unusually cold weather last month.

Six types of fish, including tilapia and shrimp, were affected by the cold spell. Stocks of tilapia were frozen to death in Guangdong, Guangxi and Jiangxi, while farmers have nothing to feed their stocks of mandarin fish.

Yang Shaodong in Qujiang county, Guangdong province, told SeafoodSource that not only was the price for fish seedlings soaring, but it was also getting more difficult to find them. He estimated more than 10 million fish seedlings were needed to make up the loss in his area alone.

Last year, Yang, who sells his fish to domestic markets, invested more than $14,000 in contracting fish ponds and introduced 300,000 tilapia and eel seedlings. But the weather destroyed them all.

"Most of our tilapia seedlings are from Hainan and Zhanjiang. But they also suffered a huge loss during the cold weather," Yang said. "The price for tilapia seedlings on the market has gone up 50 percent, and they wonâ??t be ready until April. I estimate that by then tilapia prices will already be 100 percent higher than last year."

At the same time, prices of grass carp, herring, silver carp and bighead carp seedlings are also increasing. Yang said the seedling price for grass carp had increased by 60 percent.

Xiaogan, Hubei province's biggest seafood-production area, is in urgent need of 130,000 metric tons of seedlings. The southern island province of Hainan, with 10 big tilapia seedling producers, is now providing 500 million seedlings to mainland provinces.

But farmers still say the support from government is inadequate. Guangdong has received $420,000 in subsidies, of which $336,000 is for seedlings.

One of the big tilapia farms in Zhanjiang says it needs $182,000 but has only $14,000 left to recover.

"It is very difficult to get a loan from the banks," owner Chen Wuhan said. "So I tried to borrow money from relatives and friends. I didn't get any money from the local government. They just came to help us clean the pond and nets. I sold the dead fish to the fruit farmers as the fertilizer for the fruit trees for just" 18 cents per pound.

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