Russian crab flows to South Korea amid sanctions, China’s lockdowns

Published on
April 12, 2022
Exporters from Russia are shipping more crab to South Korea after being locked out of other international markets.

Exporters from Russia are shipping more crab to South Korea after being locked out of other international markets.

Many of the world’s biggest markets for crab, including the U.S., the E.U., the U.K. have announced bans on Russian seafood imports in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Simultaneously, Chinese government has imposed lockdowns in Shanghai and several other cities to control a COVID-19 outbreak, a move expected to hinder inflows of seafood to China.

As a result, Russia has redirected much of its crab exports to South Korea, resulting in plunging prices for crustaceans there over the past month, Reuters reported. According to data from South Korea’s leading seafood market, the Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market, live snow crab prices dropped to KRW 23,000 (USD 18.70, EUR 17.20) per kilogram in the end of March, from KRW 50,000 (USD 40.60, EUR 37.40) per kilogram in mid-February. More than double the typical supply of the product was recorded over that period.

King crab prices are also on the decline, though they are not officially monitored in Noryangjin. Kim Mi-kyeong, an owner of a fish store at the market, said king crab was now sold at KRW 85,000 (USD 69.00, EUR 63.50) per kilogram, down from KRW 110,000 (USD 89.30, EUR 82.20) per kilogram two months ago.

"We didn't have enough supplies back then, but a lot more volume has come in from Russia for the last two months. Prices are lower now, so twice as many people are coming," Mi-kyeong said.

Though considered an unaffordable delicacy in the past, king crab and other crab products from Russia are now widely available in South Korean supermarkets and online retail channels in South Korea and have become popular choices for consumers there, according to Reuters. Customers at the market interviewed by Reuters expressed a range of opinions about Russian seafood. Choi Myung-sook said king crab is her favorite and she hopes the prices will fall further. But Jung Mi-jung said she refuses to buy crab from Russia.

"We should not buy those crabs," she said. "That's not even a necessity, and Russia waged an unjustifiable war against Ukraine. We should join the boycott."

So far South Korea has not restricted the imports of food from Russia, though it has cut coal imports from Russia and announced other economic and financial sanctions.

In a speech delivered virtually to the South Korean parliament on 11 April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on the East Asian nation to do “much more” and to send military assets to help Ukraine fight the war with Russia, Korea JoongAng Daily reported.

Photo courtesy of aminkorea/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from Hanoi, Vietnam

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