China’s silver cod craze drives smuggling upsurge

China’s demand for high-end cod is causing a massive rise in smuggling as supply tightens, according to a respected industry research platform. 

Legal imports of what’s termed “silver cod” will total 1,000 tons in 2017, up from 633 tons in 2016, but smuggled imports could be as high as 2,000 tons, according to Dongpin Zhan Lue (Frozen Foods Strategy), which also points to an increase in average prices from CNY 220 (USD 33.22, EUR 28.26) per kilogram to CNY 300 (USD 45.31, EUR 38.53) per kilogram for imported silver cod.

In China, silver cod has become a catch-all term for everything from common cod to toothfish, with opportunistic vendors marketing “silver cod” as a health food and a delicacy.  

Chinese customs data shows Chile to be China’s top supplier of silver cod in the first nine months of 2017. Chile shipped 199,783 tons worth USD 5.5 million (EUR 4.7 million), followed by New Zealand’s 131,298 tons worth USD 4.7 million (EUR 4 million). Argentina was third with 92,571 tons of exported silver cod worth USD 1.1 million (EUR 935,000) followed by France with 52,571 tons worth USD 1.08 million (EUR 918,400). 

Meanwhile leading e-retailer has reported a twelve-fold year-on-year increase in sales volumes of New Zealand silver cod and frozen Chilean salmon on “Singles’ Day,” an annual e-commerce marketing bonzanza that takes place annually on 11 November.


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