China processing hub increasing capacity to source seafood overseas

Published on
August 1, 2014

Local media in Qingdao made much this week of a local fleet landing a “bargain” haul of Argentine squid in the port of this huge seafood import and processing hub. Securing far-away resources, fished by new high-tech Chinese vessels is central to keeping local processing factories busy while also keeping prices of staple seafood within the reach of China’s masses — that appears to be the view of officials in Qingdao.

Frozen squid from the southwest Atlantic was being sold in Qingdao wholesale markets this week for RMB 5/500g (USD 0.81, EUR 0.60). Even for wholesale rates that’s cheap, given supermarkets in Beijing were selling domestically produced squid for RMB 25.50/500g (USD 4.13, EUR 3.08) the same week.

Marketed as “non-polluted product from the deep Atlantic” the squid came in on three vessels operated by the Qingdao Sino Thai Ocean Fisheries Co. docked in Qingdao port this month with 2,700 metric tons (MT). The firm told the state-run Qingdao Financial Daily it expects to make RMB 20 million (USD 3.2 million, EUR 2.4 million) on the squid.

“Locals in this southeasterly city were pleasantly surprised at the low prices,” the “Qingdao Financial Daily” reported with some glee. They were also thrilled with prices for ship landed by Qingdao Sino Thai Ocean Fisheries Co. — plaice at RMB 9/500g (USD 1.46, EUR 1.09), saury at RMB 5/500g and redfish at RMB 8/500g (USD 1.29, EUR 0.97).

“I never expected deep sea fish prices to be so cheap,” buyer Qiao said. “The Argentinian squid meat is thicker and the taste much more tender…I bought five kilos, it was a bargain.”

Four Qingdao Sino Thai Ocean Fisheries Co., vessels have this year so far fished 8,500 MT of squid in waters off Argentina. Squid from the Pacific and from the Indian Ocean is low value, “the meat and the taste are very poor,” an unnamed official at Sino Thai Ocean Fisheries meanwhile is quoted as saying. “This is the reason why there is a big increase in long-distance offshore fishing and this will continue,” he told the newspaper. “This is the way that the seafood prices have been brought to the level of the ordinary consumer.”While Argentine exporters of squid and other species turned out in force at the major Chinese seafood trade fairs over the past year it’s clear that while Chinese buyers are keen, they’re also increasingly capable of getting the supplies themselves. With 51 long-distance vessels working he global seas, Qingdao can look forward to more affordable catches.

“We have eight large steel professional offshore fishing vessels, each vessel is 77.8 meters has the Beidou (Chinese made navigation equipment) satellite navigation system equipped with imported foreign exploration and fishing equipment, refrigerated carrying capacity 1,200 MT and our technical performance has reached advanced international standards,” the unnamed Qingdao Sino Thai Ocean Fisheries Co. official said.

Meanwhile, a few hours down the coast from Qingdao in the smaller city of Penglai (in the same province as Qingdao), the Penglai Bo Jing Lu Shipbuilding Co., this week announced the commissioning of two 1,200-MT tuna seiners. Set for delivery in August, the two vessels will ply the waters of Papua New Guinea, according to the shipbuilding firm.

Seeking fisheries offshore is government policy in China but it’s also policy of key processing hubs like Qingdao. A September 2012 Qingdao Municipal Government document titled “Accelerating the Development of Offshore Fishing” commits the city's efforts “to transform fisheries development and promote the development of offshore fishing as a blue ocean [blue ocean is a term commonly used in China to refer to industries with untapped potential] economic development…we will promote the development of offshore fishing. This will improve the international competitiveness of Qingdao.” Qingdao’s local government has registered 20 offshore fishing companies with 51 offshore vessels and 24 more under construction.

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