Key importer: smuggling is biggest challenge to Chinese seafood trade

Published on
May 5, 2016

One of China’s most ambitious traders of seafood online has said that smuggling is the biggest challenge facing the seafood business in his country.

Ma Li, head of international sales at Ocean Family, a major Chinese processor, distributor and importer of seafood, said smuggling between the border of China and Vietnam is hurting conventional importers playing by the rules.

“The central government will have to do something to stop smuggling,” Ma said.

Ma said the problem is caused by taxes on shrimp imports that are “too high” and a “big shortage” of shrimp in the Chinese market.

One of the root causes as to why smuggling is thriving may actually be good news for China, as Li believes the slowdown of the country’s economy has been exaggerated and sees strong consumer demand driving up seafood sales.

While Ma said Ocean Family is seeking suppliers in Ecuador, India and Argentina, among other markets, his firm is a good example of a Chinese seafood company that has shifted from focusing on exports to selling to the domestic market.

Ma said Ocean Family has been scaling down exports in order to concentrate on imports – in particular shrimp. The company’s link up with leading online retail platform Tmall (which is also headquartered in Hangzhou) has seen Ocean Family sales surge. Online sales are growing 50 percent each year, according to Ma.

Ocean Family is also seeing increasing demand for tuna, which the company produces at its own canneries in Ningbo. Whereas previously production was largely for export, rising Chinese consumption of skipjack tuna is leading the company to shift focus inland.

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