China fishing moratorium pushes prices, creates space for imports

Prices are shooting up in local wholesale markets as fishing moratoriums kick in across China’s fishing ports. Most affected are staples like yellow croaker, flounder and pomfret — with prices for croaker rising 50 percent in some ports.

The price of yellow croaker went from CNY 12 (USD 1.92, EUR 1.41) per 500 grams to CNY 20 (USD 3.20, EUR 2.35) per 500g at the Sifang Wholesale Market in Qingdao, according to the city’s Qingdao Evening News, a daily newspaper. Though the ban won’t start till 1 June fish sellers are already raising the prices and consumers are very worried that this year the price of staple fish will be more severe than in recent years,” noted the newspaper — which interviewed several market goers and vendors. Vendors predict prices for fresh crab will rise by 30 percent to 40 percent in June.

Exporters seeking a market in China for lower priced whitefish will be watching to see the space in the market created by the seasonal absence of staples like croaker, which remains a favorite of both household cooks and restaurants.

Government in China remains very wary of steep price rises for staple food products such as pork, rice, cooking oil and certain kinds of fish — carp in particular. City governments of coastal cities like Qingdao are more sensitive to prices of sea-caught fish like croaker.

“The effect of the moratorium is more pronounced in recent years,” explained Zhang Lin, head of aquatic products wholesale division of the Qingdao municipal government’s commerce department. He predicts that croaker, flounder and turbot will ultimately disappear from the market in the course of the moratorium period, as prices rise beyond the purchasing power of locals. “There is clearly space in the market for low-cost imports which are equivalent to the staple fish like croaker,” according to Zhang.

Qingdao isn’t the only city seeing prices rise as the ban on East China Sea fishing kicks in. In Liaoning province, the city of Anshan is reporting similar rises. In the space of two weeks mantis shrimp prices went from CNY 20 to CNY 35 (USD 5.60, EUR 4.11) and as of 23 May stood at CNY 45 (USD 7.20, EUR 5.28) per 500g, according to the Qianshan Evening News that quoted crabs at CNY 130 (USD 20.80, EUR 15.25) per 500g.
China’s moratorium on East China Sea fishing began in 1994 as a means of replacing seriously depleted fishing resources. The national government subsidies almost one million fishermen to park their boats for two months — and three months in some parts of the East China Sea such as Bohai Bay.

Seafood companies in Latin America, the U.S. and South Asia have all been seeking to build sales in China for low-priced fish like silver croaker and butterfish — as alternatives for local favorites like yellow croaker and pomfret.


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