China exporting more seafood to developing countries

Published on
January 7, 2019

Exports have hit an all-time high at one of China’s leading distant-water ports, which is reporting strong growth in exports of processed products to developing countries – which in many cases are also the focus of China’s distant water fleets. 

In the first 10 months of 2018, the port city of Quanzhou shipped 140,140 metric tons worth USD 408 million (EUR 355.5 million), figures that are up 42.1 percent and 50.9 percent, respectively, on the same period of time in 2017. Looked at over the past decade, the growth has been significant, given that exports were worth USD 80 million (EUR 69.7 million) in 2012 and USD 295 million (EUR 257 million) in 2017 according to data from the local customs authorities.

China appears to be shipping processed products back to countries where its fishing companies have a presence. New markets for Quanzhou frozen and canned seafood in 2018 include Iceland, Liberia, Micronesia, and the Cook Islands, as well as the African states of Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea. 

Yet the big buyers include countries with which China has had territorial disputes over sea waters. The Philippines bought USD 168 million (EUR 146.4 million) in Chinese product in the first 10 months of 2018, while Thailand bought USD 63.6 million (EUR 55.4 million) and Indonesia bought USD 43.4 million (EUR 37.8 million).  The Philippines has disputed the entry of Chinese vessels into South China Sea, which China also claims. Indonesia has impounded numerous Chinese trawlers for illegal fishing. Shipments to Sri Lanka – another country that is the focus of China’s distant-water fleet as well as the “One Belt, One Road” policy – rose fourfold to USD9.37 million.  

Western importers, meanwhile, remain important, though insignificant buyers next to the demand from developing nations. Shipments to the European Union rose 77.5 percent to USD 19.37 million (EUR ) while shipments to the U.S. rose twofold to USD 5.61 million (EUR ). 

In recent years, Quanzhou has sought to build up a processing industry based on catches in distant waters by local fishing firms which in turn have been encouraged by government to operate on the high seas through subsidies for fuel and for vessel construction and renovation. 

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