China's seafood production flatlined in 2014

Published on
March 9, 2015

China’s total output of seafood in 2014 totaled 64.5 million metric tons (MT), up 4.5 percent over the previous year. The figure is the same as the growth figure reported for 2013 when China’s aquatic products totaled over 61.72 million MT, an increase of 4.5 percent year on year.

Of the total figure of 64.5 million MT for last year, aquaculture production at 47.62 million tons was up 4.9 percent while fisheries (domestic wild catch) at 16.88 million MT rose by 3.5 percent. The data was released by the government as China’s policy makers are meeting this week for the annual rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), in Beijing.

While China’s seafood production growth seems to have flatlined, the 4.5 percent figure was better than the rate of increase reported for China’s other top source of proteins like pork and poultry and suggests that consumers have favored seafood over white meat.

Pork production at 56.71 million MT rose 3.2 percent on the previous year while poultry production at 17.51 million MT was down 2.7 percent. This may be related to fears over bird flu and several scandals surrounding pork meat safety over the past year – scandals which drew consumers to seafood, a sector largely unaffected by such scandals in the past year.

Industry watchers will worry at the weaker growth in prices which has characterized the past year as China’s economy slows. Annual consumer prices rose 2 percent over the previous year, with food prices up 3.1 percent. That’s a slowdown on the 8 percent annual increase in consumer prices recorded in the midst of China’s boom a decade ago. Data released at the NPC this week shows agricultural producer prices fell 0.2 percent last year while industrial producer prices were down by 1.9 percent.

Chinese seafood prices appear to have grown much faster than volume in China’s 2014 seafood production. China’s output of seafood totaled 53.7 million MT in the first 11 months of last year – up 2.4 percent year on year. Output from aquaculture outpaced the overall growth rate: up 4.4 percent to 40.06 million MT, according to the agricultural ministry in Beijing.

It remains to be seen if growth figures for 2015 will keep pace with the 2014 data. The top official overseeing the fisheries sector, vice-minister for agriculture Niu Dun has said his priorities are encouraging more innovative types of seafood processing and improving the quality and range of species in the aquaculture sector. He’s also promised to give more government support to improving insurance coverage as well as access to credit for the fisheries sector.

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