China snaps up supply from ASEAN

Published on
January 20, 2014

Southeast Asia is fast growing its seafood shipments to China, through low taxes and new facilities to handle incoming live seafood shipments. Airports customs authorities in the key southern port of Xiamen — a gateway to China’s Southeast Asian neighbors — have announced that seafood cargo handled in 2013 from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states rose 35 percent year-on-year in volume and almost 39 percent in value.

That’s 2,940 tons or USD 25 million (EUR 18.4 million), with the bulk of imports coming from Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore. Crabs, eels, groupers and lobsters are being flown in to Xiamen daily to meet demand from restaurateurs and retailers.

“Seafood imports from Southeast Asia have the advantage of being timely and the shipping survival rate is very high,” explained a wholesaler to SeafoodSource at the cargo section of Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport. “You can get a box of live lobsters from Manila in the morning and have them on the restaurant table for lunch.”

Ongoing tension over fishing rights in the South China Sea — particularly between China and the Philippines — hasn’t stopped the trade. Lower import tariffs make seafood from Southeast Asia competitive: “CNY 22.5 million tax relief was extended to importers in 2013,” according to a statement from Xiamen’s customs office, in reference to the tax foregone on imports from ASEAN, which has tariff-free trade with China.

While Xiamen airport (a two hour flight from both Manila and Jakarta) has set up a special channel for live seafood imports, other southern cities are also responding to the surge in seafood imports from Southeast Asia. The South International Fisheries Trade Center under construction in Zhanjiang, Guangdong (home base of shrimp processing giant Guolian Aquatic) aims to be a platform for China-ASEAN trade in raw and frozen shrimp and other seafood. The market aims to ultimately become a key regional trading hub and price-setting point for the seafood trade.

ASEAN is also a key market for Chinese exports, with low priced fish like mackerel causing tension in Indonesia. China looks set to strengthen its grip on seafood supplies out of Southeast Asian, in part through improved infrastructure. Speaking at the annual China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning City near the Vietnam border this Autumn, China’s premier Li Keqiang pledged to double bilateral trade to USD 1 trillion (EUR 738 billion) to be reached by the end of 2020. While pointing out a China-funded railway building plan for the region, Li also said: “China has founded a CNY 3 billion (USD 490 million, EUR 365 million) fund, targeting ocean cooperation opportunities with ASEAN on fishing, environment protection, seafood production, navigation safety and efficiency.” In a sign of busy traffic meanwhile, Xiamen airport is currently adding a new terminal.

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