China seafood markets upbeat on strong pricing

Published on
February 22, 2016

China’s biggest festival is proving a boon for vendors of fresh, wild caught seafood with vendors on the wealthy east coast reporting a 20 percent rise in prices compared to the same period last year for wild caught shellfish and crustaceans. Chinese New Year is usually the peak consumption period of the year for Chinese seafood and this year there appeared to be strong demand from the country’s middle class consumers for imported product.

There’s been a 40 percent jump in average prices for wild sea-caught crabs at the Hua Dong Aquatic Products Market in Taizhou city, according to market manager Yang Genfu who says his market has seen a sharp rise in volumes traded in the weeks running up the Chinese New Year which falls on February 8. “There has been much stronger price growth for wild seafood and less so for farmed seafood,” noted Yang.

A tightening of supply meanwhile has led to a doubling in eel prices at the Dongtou Bei Ao Market in Wenzhou, another prosperous east coast city known for high seafood consumption. The CNY 34/ kilo average for eel is an historic high, noted a market manager surnamed Li. Prices have in general risen by 20 percent in the two weeks running up to the New Year festivities, noted Li, with high demand for crab, croaker, eel, ribbon fish and shrimp.

While China’s headline economic growth may have slowed the country’s middle classes are still spending and new outlets are opening to cater for this segment – avoiding the luxury end of the market which has been curbed by China’s anti-corruption campaign. Demand for imported seafood appears strong in the city of Zhoushan, also in Zhejiang province and a key seafood processing hub and base for some of China’s biggest overseas fishing companies. A new “experience store” and restaurant opened by Ocean Family (a trawler operator, tuna canner and seafood distributor) has been busy serving New Year party groups with Argentine red shrimp, “snow cod” (sable fish) from the South Pole and “sweet” cold-water shrimp from the North Pole. Restaurant manager Toni Zhou explained Ocean Family plans to open more of the ‘experience stores’ which combine Japanese-style restaurant seating with a shop selling company products like canned tuna.

The gift box market meanwhile was also thriving in the run up to Chinese New Year, with a particular focus on imported product by Fu Li Dao Jia, a firm specialising in online gift box sales and deliveries. A five kilo box priced at CNY 2988 features eight seafood varieties including Thai shrimp and yellow croaker but also Chilean and Scottish salmon, Alaskan crab and Boston lobster. However there’s also some Vietnamese Pangassius filets included. Meanwhile the same firm also sells 3.8kg boxes featuring mostly domestic seafood like Dalian scallops and Zhanjiang farmed shrimp but also French sable fish filets for a sum total CNY 298.

Mid-market products are most in demand for major seafood importers in Beijing. Salmon, halibut and sable fish are all selling well according to a spokesman for Baode Beijing Trading Co, reached at the company’s office in the giant Jingshen seafood wholesale market in Beijing. The firm is also seeing strong demand for black tiger shrimp from Vietnam and American crabs, said the Baode representative. There has been less demand for abalone and tropical fish like grouper and humpback wrasse, he added.

Oysters meanwhile were the New Year focus for the Beijing Yarun Aquatic Products Co which has been targeting a range of imported oysters at local restaurants and hotels favoured by white collar workers and their Chinese New Year parties. Yarun has been importing Namibian oysters which it sells at CNY 18 per piece, the same price as it’s charging for Irish oysters, while New Zealand and French Gillardeau oysters are being sold at CNY 17 and CNY 23 per piece, respectively. The firm is also making a big effort to sell Canadian blue mussels at CNY 98 per kilo, said a Yarun sales executive reached at the company’s Beijing headquarters.

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