China’s seafood imports take hit from weaker economy, currency

Published on
May 23, 2016

China’s seafood exports in the first quarter of the year slipped 2.5 percent year-on-year to USD 4.52 billion (EUR 4.03 billion) while imports were up 0.1 percent to USD 1.9 billion (EUR 1.69 billion), according to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing.

The trade surplus in seafood products – the difference between China’s exports and imports – did, however, shrink by 4.5 percent.

The data should be seen in the context of China’s overall first-quarter agricultural trade, which totalled USD 40.64 billion (EUR 36.22 billion), down 3.2 percent. While exports rose slightly, imports fell 7.2 percent to USD 24.25 billion (EUR 21.61 billion) as China bought less grain, seeds and oils. Seafood remains the only category where China continues to run a trade surplus.

The outlook is clouded by the Chinese economy showing signs of deterioration in April, after a slight rebound seen in March. Adding to Chinese worries is the depreciation of its currency, the renminbi, since early May. Loan growth slowed in April while the producer price index showed that the manufacturing sector was still much weaker than the service sector. Retail sales weakened as well.

An op-ed in the People’s Daily suggested that China’s growth trend in the coming years will be “L-shaped” rather than “U or V-shaped.” Members of the government have expressed concern that a weaker economy will drive down the value of the renminbi and accelerate capital flight (particularly if the U.S Federal Reserve lifts its domestic interest rates), thus reducing the country’s buying power for imports.

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