Chinese Fish Farm Losses May Reach $1.4 Billion
February 29, 2008 - Keith Crane reports for SeafoodSource from Guangdong Province, China Fish farmers across China are measuring the cost of the worst winter weather in 50 years, with new estimates putting the industry's losses at more than US$1.4 billion and prices rising sharply as a result.
Five weeks of blizzards and unusually low temperatures across what are usually temperate parts of the country have decimated stocks and breeding programs. With China's annual inflation rate shooting above 7 percent, the impact could soon be felt in export markets.
The extreme weather began Jan. 10 just ahead of the country's New Year or Spring Festival, when many families reunite. Another cold spell hit the region this week.
Fish and seafood prices during the Spring Festival rose by a fifth, including staples such as carp, while the price of lobster and shrimp rose by 15 percent, according to media reports.
Even as far south as the sub-tropical island province of Hainan, farmers have reported devastation despite the best efforts of fisheries officials.
Total losses are hard to estimate, but recent media reports suggest a total loss of more than US$1.4 billion in the south, including a US$294 million loss in Guangdong province alone. Chen Liangyao, deputy director of the province's Ocean and Fishery administration, said the loss could hit US$700 million as the warm weather returns and more dead and injured fish surface. About 30 percent of various fish fry bred in tanks near the coast have been wiped out, he said.
Losses in northern China are estimated to be about US$210 million.
In one of the most extreme cases of bad weather, Puqian Fishery Port in Wenchang City, Hainan, normally the country's warmest province year-round, suffered a US$2.1 million loss.
Just further north in Guangdong, another normally mild-weathered province exporting to neighboring Hong Kong and beyond, fisheries have reported losses including US$84 million in Zhanjiang, US$25 million in Zhuhai and US$4 million in Qingyuan with more than 2 million kilograms of seafood frozen to death.
Even in northern China, which is used to freezing temperatures, Ningbo City in Liaoning Province reported a loss of more than US$12 million.
Fisheries experts traveled to farms to advise them on how to protect their stocks, which was of little to no help.
Without adequate insurance, the industry is being told it must look after itself, with the Chinese government saying it can only provide experts, technology and anti-disease drugs.
In Zhanjiang City, Guangdong Province, the farms have received only US$280,000 to cover US$11.2 million in losses.