China chartering more flights carrying fresh salmon, live lobster in advance of New Year festivities

As the Chinese New Year holiday draws near, fresh and live seafood is being flown into the country via jumbo jets with increasing frequency, according to a number of recent reports. 

Earlier this month, Chinese firm Niannian Youyu (Fishforever) chartered a Boeing 747 carrying 50 metric tons of fresh Norwegian salmon from Oslo, Norway into Tianjin, China, Seafood Guide reported. Developed by the Fish Group, the “Norwegian-Tianjin Salmon Charter Intercontinental Regular Route” is expected to be used twice a week to fly Norwegian salmon to China, carrying from 50 to 100 metric tons per shift, the website said.

Avinor, Norway’s state-owned operator of civil airports, confirmed on 18 January that Slovakian air cargo company Air Cargo Global had begun flying Norwegian seafood to China in the first direct freighter flight between the two countries. The worldwide airfreight company said it aims to route Norwegian seafood from Oslo to Tianjin, a coastal metropolis in northern China, on Thursdays and Saturdays. 

"We aim to step up to three weekly departures from March, if the market responds well to the increased capacity," Peter Scholten, chief commercial officer of Air Cargo Global, said in a press release.

"We have reached an agreement with Fish Forever, a major Chinese trading company that specialises in fish. They contacted us wanting to look into the possibility of importing fresh Norwegian seafood directly to China, because demand for high quality fresh fish is on the increase in the Chinese market," Scholten added.

Norwegian media outlet Dagens Næringsliv forecasted that 7,000 metric tons of salmon will be flown directly from Norway to China this year. 

Chartered flights of this kind aren’t just coming from Norway – Canada has also resumed weekly chartered flights to China, with cargo hulls full of live lobster, reported Seafood Guide. The same Chinese firm responsible for chartering the planes from Norway – Niannian Youyu (Fishforever) – has also reinstated its charter schedule with Canadian lobster suppliers, which it began trialing last summer.

With Atlantic Canada’s lobster sales to China surging, the increase in chartered flights between the two countries makes a lot of sense. Recent figures relayed by CBC News show the volume of Atlantic Canada’s lobster sold to China skyrocketed by 50 percent in 2018 to 12 million kilograms. 

Bay Shore Lobster and Seafood in Back Bay, a coastal New Brunswick-based division of Nova Scotia's Hiyou Global Inc., has been receiving nearly 20 calls daily from buyers in Asia looking to import lobster. The callers are looking for live Canadian lobsters, unprocessed, according to Nathan Song, who runs Bay Shore Lobster and Seafood in Back Bay.

“We have a very good name in the Chinese market," Song told CBC News. "Lobster is very popular in China now. Everyone [is] looking to jump in the business."  

The value of sales of live lobster to China from Canada has jumped from CAD 27 million (USD 20.3 million, EUR 17.8 million) in 2011 to CAD 220 million (USD 166 million, EUR 145.3 million) during the first 11 months of 2018, according to CBC News. Song and the 20-employee team at his company are packaging roughly 200,000 pounds of lobster annually, 90 percent of which is being sent to China, he said.

Recent Chinese customs data revealed that China imported 18,444 metric tons of American lobster from Canada and the U.S. between January to November 2018, a 40 percent increase over the same period in 2017. Imports from the U.S. specifically rose by 1.1 percent year-on-year to 5,585 metrics tons, while Chinese imports from Canada climbed by 67 percent year-on-year to 12,860 metric tons, according to customs data. 

Seafood in China is having its moment, both in terms of imports and exports, as the country prepares to celebrate the Chinese New Year – or Spring Festival – starting on 5 February. 2019 is the Year of the Pig, in reference to the Chinese Zodiac. 


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