China's seafood traders upended by shakeout of wet markets

Published on
December 6, 2017

Seafood traders’ margins are coming under pressure as a nationwide effort by Chinese authorities to close older seafood markets on traffic and hygiene grounds intensifies. 

The move has triggered a consolidation of the seafood trading scene, according to a series of reports on the sector in China’s most populous region, Henan. Henan has long been a hub of China’s frozen foods sector due to its location in the center of the country and its huge population.

Recently, municipal government in Zhengzhou – capital of Henan Province – closed its long-established markets and built several giant new seafood trading centers in the suburbs. One of the country’s largest markets, the Wei San Lu market in Zhengzhou, closed and was replaced by the Liang An Seafood Logistics Park and the Henan Wan Bing Hai Yang Seafood and Freshwater Trading Centre. Another new trading center, the Zhong Yuan Si Jie Seafood Logistics Park, focuses on frozen products and replaces the old Zhengzhou Da Shui Chan (Big Seafood) Market. 

A survey of the city’s seafood markets by Zhengzhou Business newspaper reported that business is brisk in the Wan Bing, which services the wider central China region. However, the newspaper also quoted several traders as saying that higher rents in the new markets are forcing out small-scale traders. China’s central government in recent years has encouraged cities to boost economic growth through construction and through clearing subpar older buildings sometimes termed “shantytowns.”

The move has divided opinion, with some locals claiming the move has pushed up seafood prices in smaller shops and restaurants across the city due to merchants claiming higher logistics costs. Others have praised the move for reducing heavy vehicle traffic downtown. Government newspapers in early November, meanwhile, ran propaganda-style stories featuring a couple surnamed Wang who praised the new Wan Bing Hai market, claiming their annual earnings have been sufficient to invest in five Zhengzhou apartments. 

Contributing Editor reporting from Beijing, China

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