Premium seafood demand driving growth in China


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
October 25, 2012

China has the potential to become a USD 20 billion (EUR 15.5 billion) seafood import market by the end of the current decade, with rising incomes increasing domestic demand for seafood, particularly premium species, according to a new Rabobank report. 

According to the report, “The Dragon’s Changing Appetite,” whilst China remains the leading exporter of seafood globally, imports will play a key role in the future as the country emerges as the leading consumer of high-end seafood in the world.   

Rabobank says increasing domestic demand for seafood represents a “significant opportunity” for all other seafood exporters to grow imports into China and to also capture some of China’s market share in other export markets.

“China’s processors and farmers will increasingly focus on domestic demand, while Western and other Asian producers will seek their fortunes by supplying species such as salmon, scallops and lobster to new consumers in China,” says the report, which adds that the country’s per capita consumption grew from 10kg in 1990 to 30kg in 2009.

The report calls salmon “the Prada of the Chinese seafood market, viewed as a modern and prestigious import” as it is favored by the fast growing number of young urban consumers.

“These are the same type of consumers who would purchase an expensive and rare iPhone or Prada shoes,” says the report.

Rabobank says Chinese salmon imports from Europe — the key supplier of Atlantic salmon to China — grew from virtually nothing in 2000 to more than 12,000 metric tons in 2011. With Hong Kong imports included, this figure is closer to 35,000 metric tons (MT).

“This is a considerable amount, but still relatively small compared to the 2012 global salmon production of nearly 2 million MT.”

Gorjan Nikolik, Associate Director Animal Protein, Rabobank International, told SeafoodSource the growth trend for salmon in the Chinese market is expected to continue on its current trajectory.

Based on the combined market of 35,000 MT last year, a conservative growth rate of 11 percent would see salmon imports reach 90,000 MT by 2020. However, an optimistic growth rate of 14 percent, which is possible if it behaves like a high-end luxury seafood, would see imports top 120,000 MT by the end of the current decade, said Nikolik.

He adds that the growth rate for salmon imports in 2012 is 30 percent, but explains that this has been “an exceptional year” as a result of low market prices.

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