China tilapia, shrimp prices soften on supply surge

China’s key seafood export commodities have eased but are solid in historical terms, suggesting higher prices for exporters this fall.

Tilapia prices beat last year’s averages in the early months of the year and hit RMB 6/500g (USD 0.97, EUR 0.72) in May, a significant increase on the RMB 4.8/500g (USD 0.77, EUR 0.57) average recorded at the same time last year. But by June prices had slid back to RMB 4.8/500g, where they were at the same time last year — and remain there for now.

Fish weighing 1.6kg and above were making RMB 5 (USD 0.81, EUR 0.6) to RMB 5.5 (USD 0.89, EUR 0.66) per 500g at the farm gate. Prices were better in Guangxi at RMB 7/500g (USD 1.13, EUR 0.84) while cultivators in southwesterly Yunnan province were making RMB 6.8/500g (USD 1.10, EUR 0.81), an impressive rate for the region where domestic consumption of tilapia has been growing — important given the remoteness of parts of the sprawling province.

Shrimp farmers are reportedly selling off stocks given worries over the onset of disease with hot, stormy weather in July. Traders quoted RMB 19/500g (USD 3.06, EUR 2.27) for 40 head of shrimp (wholesale prices) at the key wholesale market of Shanwei in Zhongshan. “Processors are starting to buy now for the Autumn market…There are expectations of a big pick up in prices in August and September, when most ponds will have been emptied,” reported one trader.

Data published by the Chinese ministry of agriculture suggest the higher shrimp prices appear to be quoted in Guangdong province (RMB 20/500g [USD 3.22, EUR 2.39] for 40 head of shrimp) while the less wealthy provinces of Guangxi and Hainan are recording RMB 19/500g and RMB 18-19/500g respectively in the ministry’s data.

It’s worth contrasting current shrimp prices with 2011 when shrimp was sold for RMB 15/500g (USD 2.42, EUR 1.80) in the Guangdong region while producers sold for RMB 14/500g (USD 2.26, EUR 1.67) in Hainan that year. But prices are certainly down from highs seen in 2013, when supply suffered due to an outbreak of the EMS disease: shrimp prices hit RMB 37/500g (USD 5.96, EUR 4.42) and RMB 47/500g (USD 7.57, EUR 5.61) in Guangdong in March of last year, before easing to RMB 27/500g (USD 3.23, EUR 4.35) in December.

With domestic consumption playing a greater factor in Chinese seafood pricing, festivals have a significant effect on Chinese prices: local perch prices went from RMB 21/500g (USD 3.38, EUR 2.51) in the run up to the early summer Dragon Boat festival but slipped to RMB 20 (USD 3.22, EUR 2.39) after the festival. Prices rose from RMB 21 back up to RMB 24-25/500g (USD 3.87-USD 4.03, EUR 2.87-EUR2.99) in August 2013 for perch weighing eight ounces and more. Meanwhile, turbot prices have been flat this month at RMB 17.5/500g (USD 2.82, EUR 2.09) and RMB 18/500g (USD 2.90, EUR 2.15) in the port cities of Xingcheng and Rizhao.


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