Domestic market proves a tough proposition for Chinese processors

There are signs that some of China’s seafood companies are finding the domestic market tough going and are turning back to international markets. The high cost of finance and logistics have been cited in a new report from one of the country’s leading processing zones as reasons for a renewed emphasis on exports. A report on its members’ performance in the first quarter of 2014, provided to SeafoodSource by the Ningbo Seafood Industry Association (NSIA) also warns that local marine resources are “seriously depleted in the East China Sea” and thus local fishery processors are increasingly reliant on imported stocks — such as tuna and mackerel.

One of China’s leading processing hubs and its key tuna processing base, Ningbo reported its exports in the first quarter slipped 5.2 percent quarter-on-quarter to 45,945 metric tons (MT). Yet the figure is up 3.18 percent year-on-year, according to NSIA.

The association pointed to weaker global demand for bonita and skipjack for a weak performance of the non-canned sector: a total 5,265 MT of tuna exports represents a drop of 13.7 percent (down 25 percent in value). But within that overall figure what the trade association terms as “frozen, fileted and packed” (as opposed to filets) bonita and skipjack saw a significant jump: a total 665 MT worth USD 12.4 million (EUR 8.95 million), up 123.9 percent and 256 percent respectively.

Ningbo is home to enterprises like Qiu Long, Nan Lian, Xu Long and Fu Yi Hua, all of whom have emerged in the past decade as major players in canning of tuna, mackerel and sardines — typically for export markets.

Interestingly however it was “frozen, dry and smoked” (no figures were given) sea cucumbers which delivered the strongest increase in sales — Ningbo is a processing center but not a major cultivation base for sea cucumbers. Shipments of frozen mackerel meanwhile rose 90.5 percent according to the NSIA, which interpreted the mackerel figure as proof of a deterioration in “traditional local sea fish stocks.”

Japan and Korea are the top two markets for Ningbo seafood, while Hong Kong and Malaysia grew strongest year on year in the first quarter: to USD 106.6 million (EUR 76.9 million) and USD 82 million (EUR 59.2. million) respectively. Shipments to Thailand meanwhile fell 51.6 percent year-on-year, according to the NSIA, which didn’t elaborate.

he NSIA sounds a cautious note on the future of city’s seafood processing sector: “Our member companies have invested significantly in new technology in the past decade and are competitive globally but the rising costs of manufacturing in China mean the era of high margins is truly over.”


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