In major about-face, China cuts seafood output projections

Published on
December 12, 2016

China has scaled back its ambitions for further expansion of seafood output, a major about-face for the world’s most populous nation.

Under the National Agricultural Modernization Plan (2016-2020) the country will cut its output from 66.9 million metric tons (MT) in 2015, to 66 million MT in 2020. The plan, which is issued by the State Council (China’s cabinet), also effectively caps some other key commodities which China has sought to boost over the past two decades, including corn and cotton.

The government’s plans appear to be driven by China’s severe shortage of water and an ongoing crackdown on chronic water pollution across the country.

In place of domestic production, China is embracing a stronger reliance on seafood imports. However, according to estimates by the Development Research Center of the State Council, there doesn’t appear to be enough demand to fully satisfy China’s growing demand for seafood.

Estimates published by the center suggest that China will be consuming 85.23 million MT of seafood by 2023 - up 35 percent on the figure for 2013

“This suggests the gap [between supply and demand] is 19.23 million MT…hence 22.3 percent of the demand [for seafood] cannot be met,” according to the Development Research Center’s document.

The shift to imports represents a change of direction for China. The country’s government had issued numerous directives earlier this year and in previous years encouraging greater output from its national fleet.

But fishing in Chinese waters has not been productive in recent years. Growth in China’s production of seafood already slowed in 2015 with annual output of aquatic products reaching 66.9 million MT in 2014, an increase of 3.5 percent, according to data published by China’s Agriculture Ministry, which oversees fisheries.

China’s total output of seafood in 2014 totalled 64.5 million MT, up 4.5 percent from 2013. The growth figure reported for 2013 was also up 4.5 percent year-on-year from 2012, when China’s seafood output totalled 61.72 million tons.

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