Seafood prices, imports weakening in China
Weaker wholesale prices on the domestic market and a slump in imports of processing inputs are alarming China’s fishery officials. They are bemoaning the first year on year dip in prices for the first quarter since 2007.
The situation is “urgent,” according to the ministry of agriculture’s fishery section in a statement and data release forwarded to provincial bureaus of the ministry. It notes how first-quarter prices “prolonged a weakening trend that began in the second half of 2014” with average prices down 1.19 percent on the same period last year and average marine prices down 0.95 percent, while average freshwater seafood prices fell back 1.48 percent on the same period last year.
On the trading side, exports rose 10.14 percent in volume terms to 9.3 million metric tons (MT) and rose 6.9 percent in value terms to USD 4.6 billion (EUR 4.14 billion) in the first three months of 2015. Imports however dropped 19.7 percent in volume terms to 9.04 million MT and fell 11.07 percent in value terms to USD 1.9 billion (EUR1.52 billion). The figures were driven by “weakening” imports of fish by processors and the figures were also impacted by weaker fish feed imports: down 53 percent in volume terms and down 32.1 percent in value terms according to the ministry, which didn’t provide the absolute figures for fishmeal. Volatility in fish feed prices has worried the aquaculture sector, notes the ministry’s statement which points to a “large increase” in prices and a sharp drop in import volume in the first quarter.
Exports were boosted by a recovery in U.S. demand and a huge 64 percent year on year surge in shipments to countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc, with which China has a free trade pact. Shipments to the other key markets – the EU, Japan and Korea – all fell slightly on last year’s figures with Korea showing the worst drop at almost 9 percent.
“Unceasing” expansion of production capacity twinned with weak growth in international and domestic demand have dented sales, according to the agriculture ministry statement.
China’s total seafood output in the first quarter rose 3.6 percent to 11.9 million MT with aquaculture contributing a massive 9.2 million MT, up 4.6 percent on the same period last year. Fishing, at 2.8 million MT, rose 1.1 percent year on year. A crackdown by Indonesia on illegal fishing – it’s classified as a “ban” in the report – has meanwhile hit Chinese wild catch figures, according to the ministry’s report. The country’s long-distance fishing fleet took 116,000 MT in the first three months from regional waters including Indonesia, down 31 percent on the same period last year while 415,800 MT from the high seas was a 32 percent increase year on year.
While China’s data on its wild catch is often questioned for under-reporting its figures for average wholesale seafood prices tend to be accurate. And they reveal a worrying trend. Traders will be eagerly awaiting data for the first half of the year to see if prices recover.