China seafood prices, consumption rose in 2013

Published on
January 23, 2014

Government anti-corruption measures somewhat curbed sales of high-end seafood in 2013 but prices for seafood in China’s domestic market grew strongly last year, according to a survey published by the agricultural ministry.

Data culled from a survey of 80 individual wholesale markets nationwide through 2013 showed an average price of CNY 20.95 (USD 3.46, EUR 2.53) per kilogram (KG), up 6.18 percent compared to the previous year. Seawater products averaged CNY 37.95 (USD 6.27, EUR 4.58) per kg, up 6.1 percent, while freshwater seafood products sold for an average CNY 14.60 (USD 2.41, EUR 1.76) per kg in 2013, up 7.3 percent year-over-year.

While the higher growth for freshwater products (including carp, a staple of lower income groups and home cooking) suggests that China’s austerity drive has cut demand for luxury product. However data for overall consumption suggests that Chinese consumption of seafood continues to grow healthily.

Several scandals surrounding the safety of chicken and pork clearly benefited sales of seafood in 2013. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, an overall 7.4 million tons represents a year-on-year increase of 5.4 percent while turnover of CNY 136.6 billion (USD 23 billion, EUR 17 billion) recorded last year represents a climb of 9.02 percent compared to 2012.

Speaking to SeafoodSource during a press conference at the ministry headquarters in downtown Beijing, a ministry official suggested consumption and prices will continue to outpace other agricultural segments in 2014. Indeed it’s worth noting that price growth for seafood products has significantly outpaced a national government target to keep inflation within 3.5 percent each year.

Prices and demand for seafood typically rise in the run up to the Chinese New Year festival, this year set for 31 January. Prices rose by an average 6.07 percent during Chinese New Year in 2013, according to the agricultural ministry, but dropped off afterwards.

A repeated emphasis on frugality from China’s Communist Party leadership suggests any spurt in sales from the festival, China’s largest, may be temporary. Local media in China this week reported employees at various levels of government, including state-owned companies, have been warned to cancel banquets and gift giving this festival as president Xi Jinping underlines his determination to battle corruption among his Communist Party cadres.

The frugality drive also appears to have curbed a long-standing corporate tradition of lavish nianhui or annual parties featuring banquets and gift giving. A half-dozen seafood traders questioned by SeafoodSource at the Sanyuanli wet market in Beijing this week said they were selling lower quantities of abalone, oysters (imported and local) and salmon to corporate and restaurant clients. 

Last week in its annual conference on fisheries (which comes under the remit of the department) the agricultural ministry valued output in the sector at CNY 1.9 trillion (USD 314 billion, EUR 229 billion) in 2013, an increase of 15 percent year-on-year. The figure encompasses earnings across the sector, from aquaculture to local fisheries for domestic consumption.

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