China’s shrimp exports slump as imports increase

Published on
February 18, 2015

China’s seafood processing sector for export has slumped while shrimp imports are rapidly outpacing exports: These are some of the findings from the annual round up of the seafood sector by the agricultural ministry in Beijing.

China’s 2014 shrimp exports fell 16 percent while imports increased 11.8 percent year-on-year. That’s according to data for last year just released by the Chinese agriculture ministry, which blames the fall in shrimp exports on the “high incidence of disease in two consecutive years…meaning vannamei production fell, while domestic demand continues to increase.”

China’s seafood exports hit 4.16 million metric tons (MT) last year, up 5.16 percent year-on-year. Exports were worth USD 21.69 billion (EUR 24.64 billion), an increase of 7.08 percent. Meanwhile, imports rose by 2.56 percent to 4.281 million MT and were worth USD 9.18 billion (EUR 8.07 billion), an increase of 6.34 percent on the previous year. The country’s trade surplus of USD 12.513 billion (EUR 11.1 billion) rose by USD 890 million (EUR 783.20 million) or 7.66 percent year-on-year.

The new data suggests China is losing its competitiveness as a processing hub with exports from the processing sector continuing to slow in growth terms. Processing exports at 1.18 million MT were worth USD 5.46 billion (EUR 4.80 billion), an increase of 1.4 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively. Reprocessed exports accounted for only 25.2 percent of exports, down 1.2 percentage points compared with last year and down a massive 12 percentage points on 2008 figures.

“The cost of production, especially labor costs continue to increase, exchange rate changes and the impact of the global economic downturn… since 2008 processing aquatic products exports as a proportion of total exports have continued to decline,” read a statement from the agricultural ministry, which oversees fisheries in China.

With reprocessing for export less and less of a driver for seafood shipments, what the ministry terms “general trade” exports last year totaled 2.84 million MT worth USD 16.04 (EUR 13.63) billion — an increase of 7.93 percent and 9.36 percent, respectively. General trade seafood accounted for almost 74 percent of total exports with this figure made up mostly of whole and filleted farmed favorites like tilapia, eel, cuttlefish, squid and shrimp. Exports of shellfish are increasing while shipments of tilapia and large yellow croaker have been largely flat and eel exports were also slow to increase in 2014, noted the ministry in a lengthy statement.

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