Higher seafood consumption predicted in China

Published on
February 22, 2019

China’s government has set an ambitious target to sharply increase consumption of seafood by the Chinese populace over the next 10 years. 

In its "2018-2027 Outlook for Agriculture,” China’s Agriculture Ministry, which oversees fisheries, projects the consumption of aquatic products will increase to 25 kilograms per capita overall, with the figure rising to 30 kilograms per capita in urban areas. The ministry report points to seafood as a more efficient protein source compared to meat, with added dietary benefits.

This would represent a major increase in consumption in China. In 2015, the figure was 14.3 kilograms and 5.3 kilograms, respectively, for urban and rural areas, according to Chinese government data. Yet survey data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests those levels of consumption were already reached in 2009. 

Data on China’s per capita seafood consumption is typically calculated by dividing the total supply of seafood (local and imported minus exports) by the country’s population. Various estimates put per capita seafood consumption at between 40 and 45 kilograms per capita.

However, China’s Agricultural Department appears to be using statistics that don’t count seafood consumed out of the home. The ministry’s data also suggests “only 42 percent” of average Chinese eats seafood regularly, whereas 58 products of the population – in populous inland regions like Henan Province, “only rarely eat aquatic products.” Some traditional seafaring regions, like Fujian, Hainan, and Shanghai, have average per capita consumption rates in excess of 25 kilograms per capita, according to Chinese official data published by the Agricultural Ministry.

Chinese (urban and rural) per capita consumption of seafood rocketed from 11.5 kilograms in 1990 to 25.4 kilograms in 2004 and will reach 35.9 kilograms per capita in 2020, according to the FAO.

China may also be looking at seafood as a more efficient way of producing protein for human consumption: the new outlook from the ministry points out that the feed conversion ratio in aquaculture production is 2:1, compared to 5:1 for pig production and 7:1 for beef meat production.  

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