Seafood prices in China’s wealthiest city rise in first quarter

Published on
May 23, 2014

Fish maw, scallops and halibut were on the menu in Shanghai this week for Russian president Vladimir Putin and other VIPs in town for a security summit. Seafood remains the default choice of fine diners in China’s commercial capital, and demand for imported seafood continues to drive prices for some key species, according to a newly published survey of wholesale seafood trade in the first quarter of 2014.

A survey of 16 species published by the city’s Aquatic Products Bureau showed an average price of CNY 50 (USD 8.02, EUR 5.88) per kilogram was up 7.5 percent year-on-year. What the bureau terms “common” species (mostly freshwater fish) meanwhile averaged CNY 14.94 (USD 2.40, EUR 1.76) per kg, up 3.7 percent year-on-year while “high-end” seafood products averaged CNY 73.33 (USD 11.76, EUR 8.63) per kg, up 8.03 percent on the same period last year.

Notably there was a “significant” fall in demand for the traditional seafood gift boxes and for group purchasing of high-end seafood.  This is significant given seafood purchasing was otherwise boosted by the Chinese New Year rush, notes the statement: the annual traditional festival this year fell at the end of January. The fall is attributed to the government’s ongoing campaign against official waste.
Nonetheless, prices for imported species appear to remain solid (though in part prices were dictated by international trends) lobsters, salmon and oysters rose by between 6 percent and 30 percent according to the Shanghai data — while abalone prices stayed flat due to increased local production.

It appears that there’s solid demand for crustaceans. Average prices for wild crab rose 10 percent year on year while farmed crabs rose 2 percent. Vannemei and freshwater shrimp categories saw an average rise of 35 percent and crayfish, admittedly not in season yet, rose 20 percent.

Meanwhile saury (a delicacy in Chinese cuisine) prices are flat, that’s put down to lower consumption in hotels and restaurants. Prices for perch (also sometimes called bass in China) remained steady while an expansion in eel and turbot farming in southern China was also blamed for prices for what’s categorized as “low-to-medium grade fresh-chilled fish” slipping by 2.3 percent on average.

Shanghai wholesale markets handled 300 tons a day of freshwater product, and 750 tons of seafood was brought into the city from outside the greater city limits.

Food prices have been easing in China. There have been broader indications meanwhile that prices are softening in China as the general economy continues to slow down — this is happening while government tries to switch away from a growth model driven by infrastructure and real estate. China's consumer prices in April rose 1.8 percent over a year earlier, down from March's 2.4 percent year-on-year rise. The rise in food prices slowed 2.3 percent from the previous month’s 4.1 percent jump.

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