Chinese seafood importers, retailers on buying mission in Ireland

Published on
April 2, 2015

Ireland has gone the direct route to Chinese seafood sales by bringing a large delegation of Chinese buyers to Ireland for a tour of production facilities and waters as well as a day of prearranged meetings with Irish seafood suppliers.

“According to our colleagues who accompanied the buyers on their itineraries they were mostly interested in live and processed brown crab, oysters, prawns and razor clams,” according to Karen Spellman at Bord Bia, the Irish government’s food promotion board, which organized the buying trip as part of its annual fair in Dublin for international food and fisheries buyers.

Details of deals done are unavailable but the list of Chinese buyers, seen by SeafoodSource, offers a good picture of the key players seeking to import seafood into China, with a noticeable presence of firms seeking to diversify from the low-margin processing activity into more lucrative imports and trading.

Chinese buyers who travelled to Ireland included Qingdao Sinomark Foods Co., Ltd. and Qingdao Ifish Processing Co., Ltd. Also travelling were buyers from Qingdao Oceanese Foods Co., a processor that in recent years has attempted to diversify into importing and processing seafood for the domestic market.

Interestingly, several Chinese retailing powerhouses also went to Dublin: state-run China Resources Vanguard (GFS) and Yonghui Superstores Co. Ltd. as well as City Shop, a chain of supermarket stores specialising in high-price imported food. As Chinese retailers expand their store count they’re seeking new product lines to entice middle-class customers. Likewise, retailers are keen on the attractive margins typically charged on imported food goods.

The geographic spread of the firms that went to Dublin suggests demand for imported seafood remains strong in China’s lower-tier cities. Northern China firms represented included Jilin Zisheng Island Frozen Food Co., Ltd. and Qiyuan (Changchun) Food Co., Ltd. Central China was represented by Chongqing Maijun Trading Co., Ltd. The south of China was represented by Guangzhou Hanson Import & Export Trade Co., Ltd. and Jookey (Suzhou) Trade Co., Ltd. Meanwhile, Shanghai Aquatic Products Chamber of Commerce travelled to Ireland with the Shanghai Feng Yi Trading Company Ltd. and Shanghai Jinxian Industrial Co., Ltd.

As part of its annual Marketplace event to promote Irish food exports, Bord Bia enticed more than 400 potential customers, including 300 pre-screened international buyers, to meet with Irish food and drink producers intent on doing business. Asia was also represented by Korea: Chung-Hae F&S and Hyundai Department Store, with one firm from Singapore, Indoguna Singapore PTE Ltd.

Traditionally, the Chinese market has been a destination for Irish pelagic fish but over the past decade Chinese demand for premium shellfish and crustaceans has prompted Ireland to boost its sales presence in the country. While EU markets account for 65 percent of Ireland’s EUR 540 million (USD 563 million) worth of seafood exports in 2014, shipments to China rose 35 percent in 2014 with the country ranking as the 9th-largest export market in value terms for Irish seafood exporters. In eighth place however, Russia was a bigger market than China last year, with Korea the 10th biggest market in value terms for the Irish.

With almost EUR 20 million (USD 21.60 million) worth of sales last year, Irish seafood exports to China have grown fast from the EUR 7.7 million (USD 8.5 million) in value terms in 2012, representing an increase of 169 percent on the previous year’s sales. Irish players in the market include Shellfish de la Mer, Carr Shellfish and Rockabill. Shipments of live Irish crab and oysters by air into major Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong are increasing in frequency.

Five Irish oysters firms, including Majestic Oysters, Ireland Premium Oysters and Carlingford Oysters, are being grant-aided by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Irish Sea Fisheries Board, to build high-margin sales in the Hong Kong market, where premiums are as high as 20 percent on EU export markets, explains Richard Donnelly, head of business development in BIM’s aquaculture department.

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