China continues clampdown on seafood smuggling with new seizure at Vietnam border

Published on
January 9, 2020

Chinese authorities have seized and destroyed a shipment of seafood being smuggled through one of the country’s main border crossings with Vietnam.

The Shui Kou customs post near Nanning city carried out a formal “destruction” of nine types of smuggled seafood seized recently, including eel and lobster from South America, according to a statement and photos from Chinese Customs’ press office.

Customs at Shui Kou claim 202 tons of frozen seafood were seized at the crossing in 2019. While it has stressed the danger to public health of “unregistered and unmonitored” seafood getting through to China the Customs Bureau has also pointed that smuggling seafood is also a form of tax evasion. According to the bureau, CNY 186 million (USD 26 million, EUR 24.1 million) was lost on CNY 1.07 billion (USD 149 million, EUR 138.8 million) worth of goods smuggled into China in 2019 with seafood, ivory, rice, and ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine among the key items seized.

The made-for-media crackdown in Shui Kou – local media were invited to film the seafood being removed from boxes before being taken to what appears to be an incinerator for destruction – was welcomed by legitimate Chinese seafood importers and distributors who've long called for harsher measures against smugglers.

The crackdown may also benefit those exporting to China through the legal channels, including Norwegian exporters, who have recently seen a surge in interest in their products in the world’s largest seafood market. Earlier this week, the Norwegian Seafood Council announced a 94 percent increase in salmon exports to China in 2019, with 23,525 tons shipped. Shipments of “Arctic cod” rose by 14 percent in volume and 24 percent in volume, according to the industry group, which has been ramping up a big marketing campaign in major Chinese cities, continuing a long-term strategy of putting billboards and advertising screens in subway stations and restaurants over the past two decades to increase awareness among consumers.

Customs data show that China’s seafood imports grew 22.7 percent in the first seven months of the year, to 3.48 million tons worth USD 10.2 billion (EUR 9.2 billion), up 27.7 percent. Shipments from India, Ecuador, and Peru rose by 296 percent, 193 percent, and 37.8 percent, respectively, in volume terms – a shift driven in part by China’s clampdown on grey trade smuggling of third-country shrimp across the border from Vietnam.

Photo courtesy of Claudine Van Massenhove/Shutterstock

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