New air route to increase seafood trade between Bangladesh and China
Bangladeshi seafood exporters are getting a new route to China with the establishment of an air freight connection between Dhaka and the northwesterly Chinese city of Xi’an.
The route will be operated Chinese-based YTO Airlines six times per week using a Boeing 737 and the new line is expected to carry seafood on the return flight to Xi’an’s Xian Yang International Airport, according to a management official at Xi’an airport, who explained to SeafoodSource how the city has been keen to grow its freight business in food imports.
Bangladesh, which mostly produces black tiger shrimp (as opposed to vannamei, or whiteleg, shrimp), has hitherto shipped the bulk of its to the European Union, but the country has struggled in recent years to keep up with high export volumes of neighboring India.
Though one of China’s more far-flung destinations, Xi’an has built up a valuable manufacturing base centered on technology and pharmaceuticals, with a resulting prosperous middle class. The YTO air service will shuttle solar power and telecoms equipment and medical gear to Bangladesh, according to YTO.
The lure of duties from premium seafood imports – and the tax receipts from their sale in local stores and restaurants – is strong for officials in provincial cities like Xi’an, which only in recent years have been allowed to run customs on perishable food imports. Previous to the opening of more customs processing facilities in second- and third-tier Chinese cities, most of the seafood reaching these areas arrived via grey trade, which typically meant the seafood was smuggled in via a land border. But provincial governments in northern China successfully lobbied for the recent central government crackdown on the grey trade and, partially as a result, regional air carriers have raced to service more Chinese cities. YTO Airlines has focused on tapping new routes between the relatively under-serviced northwest of China and key markets for perishables like fruit and seafood – it has another route connecting Bangkok and Xi’an.
Last month, China’s prime minister said the country will be providing an aid package to the air freight sector to enable Chinese freight carriers to establish more routes and acquire more jets, as the grounding of passenger fleets due to the coronavirus crisis has deprived Chinese businesses of routes to market.
That will likely help the seafood sector continue growing its imports to China. China's shrimp imports have nearly tripled to 718,000 metric tons worth USD 4.44 billion (EUR 4.08 billion), with India a leading supplier. But Bangladesh is also well-positioned to take advantage of the opening. Like Pakistan but unlike India, Bangladesh has close political ties with China. Several Chinese aquafeed firms, including Guangdong Nutriera Group, have sought to increase sales in Bangladesh, a country with a population of more than 161 million.
Photo courtesy of Phuong D. Nguyen/Shutterstock