Calls mount for salmon producers to step up to meet China’s growing appetite

Published on
October 29, 2019

China’s exponentially increasing demand for salmon is likely to put a pinch on global supplies if the salmon-farming sector doesn't find a way to increase production, according to Miguel Ugarte, the Asia sales director for Multiexport Foods Company, a leading supplier of Chilean salmon in China.

China has become the fastest-growing market for salmon in the world, with numbers indicating it has grown a whopping 166 percent in the last eight years, Urgarte said during the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s annual marketplace forum in Qingdao, China on Monday, 28 October.

That rapid increase in demand is coupled with a global slow-down in supply increases. Year-over-year between 1995 and 2005, salmon production on average increased steadily at eight percent. From 2018 to 2022, however, the growth is projected to be just four percent.

In addition, the salmon sizes being produced also pose a problem, Ugarte said.

“There’s a lack of big sizes to satisfy Chinese consumption growth,” he said. The Chinese market, Ugarte said, typically enjoys salmon sizes in excess of five kilograms, which represents a small portion of the Atlantic salmon grown globally.

“Among the total biomass, if we consider the five-kilogram-plus soze, it’s representing only 15 percent,” he said.

Another supply issue stems from the Chinese preference for fresh product over frozen product. While fresh product can be delivered, bringing it over from far-flung Chile is a challenge.

Even with those challenges considered, if China’s consumption of salmon continues to grow, it will rapidly become the most dominant market for Atlantic salmon by a wide margin by 2030, when seafood consumption per capita is expected to increase by 50 percent.

“They will demand 70 percent of the worldwide Atlantic salmon supply,” Ugarte said.

Alexander Aukner, lead seafood equity research analyst for DNB Markets, a leading investor in the seafood market, spoke alongside Ugarte. Aukner highlighted the low consumption-per-capita that China currently has of salmon, sitting at around 0.2 kilograms per person, per year. Compared to Norway, which consumes a much larger amount per-person, China still has room for growth.

“In Norway, we only have five million people, but we consume a lot of salmon. Imagine the possibilities in China,” Aukner said.

Aukner, too, pointed out the stagnant growth in global aquaculture production of salmon, and predicts that innovation could be a way that the sector bridges the gap.

“If aquaculture production starts to stagnate, something else will take over,” he said.

He highlighted some of the many large-scale offshore projects that have begun to produce salmon, including some which had been built in Qingdao, such as the Ocean Farm 1 by SalMar and the Havfarm by Nordlaks.

“You can see many many different ways to find different types of ways to do farming to combat the growth problems we are facing,” Aukner said. “I think if traditional growth fails to satisfy demand, something else will take its place.”

Photo courtesy of Chris Chase/SeafoodSource

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