China’s tuna canning hub frets about shortage of raw materials

Published on
February 22, 2017

One of China’s key seafood exporting cities is worried that changes in international trade norms – and the more alarming disappearance of aquatic products from local seas – will harm Chinese seafood exports.

Possible trade protectionism in the United States under the administration of new President Donald Trump and a Japanese plan to end China’s “favored” tax status, along with political instability in South Korea, all bode ill for exports, according to a statement from the Ningbo Fisheries Industry Association, which represents some of China’s biggest tuna processing and canning companies. However, the largest concern for the association is the increasing difficulty of sourcing local product, according to a statement release by the association.

In the statement, the body revealed that 2016 imports were down to 56,200 tons, down 4.82 percent. However, they rose sharply in value, to CNY 767 million (USD 111 million, EUR 106 million), an increase of 31.5 percent, due to what the association said was the shortage of resources in China’s territorial seas, particularly the East China Sea.

Exports of aquatic products rose 2.1 percent year-on-year to reach 1.355 million tons total, but were down 0.28 percent in value to CNY 4.15 billion (USD 603 million, EUR 572 million). Noticeable in the data is that exports to traditional markets are down, while exports to Southeast Asia have sunk. Japan and South Korea accounted for 45 percent of total Ningbo exports in 2016, and 45.8 percent in value terms. Shipments to the U.S. fell by 2.5 percent. But most worrying for the association is the fall in demand from Southeast Asia – shipments to the important consumer markets of Singapore and Malaysia were down by 47.59 and 55.70 percent, respectively, as buyers switched to cheaper Thai product.

In response, the city’s canneries and processors are seeking to adjust their product mix to more value-added tuna processed products, as well as canned and grilled eel and frozen surimi, the association said.

“The problem is that East China Sea fishery resources are disappearing. Thus, sourcing raw materials is harder for the city’s huge seafood canners like Xu Long and Long Tai,” the association’s statement said. “Export processing is subject to the bottleneck of the East China Sea resources.”

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