Seafood prices to rise 70 percent by 2050

Published on
July 3, 2013

Seafood prices will rise by up to 70 percent between now and 2050 due to shortage of supply and wage growth, according to a leading Australian agrononomist.

The price of fishmeal and oil will be up 61 percent in real terms over 2007 figures according to Jammie Penm, an economist at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), a division of the country’s agricultural ministry.

Fish prices will increase by 48 percent, far ahead of any other food category, including meat (up 14 percent by 2050) and cereals (13 percent), according to Penm in a presentation in Beijing on long term global food supply, demand and price implications.

Speaking to SeafoodSource, Penm said he based his figures on a comparative lack of new supply of fish products compared to maize and meat as well as the demand for seafood created by rising incomes. Average per capita incomes will rise 123 percent between now and 2050 according to Penm who explains the choices of a 2050 seafood consumer: “If my wages are up 50 percent and the price of food is up 30 percent I have room to spend.”

While the real value of seafood will almost double to USD 30 billion (EUR 23 billion), Penm predicts it’s set to be dwarfed by red meat, which will rise to USD 150 billion (EUR 115 billion) from USD 30 billion in the 2007-2050 time frame. His bearish outlook for seafood should perhaps be seen in the context of China’s 2012 aquatic products output, up 4 percent to 58 million tons (compared to the 56 million tons in 2011). Growth has slowed significantly since the late 1990s and 2000s due to a shortage of land, water pollution and rising labor costs.

Penm’s predictions on price are supported to some extent by Chinese consumption data. Demand for high-end imported seafood in China continues to grow: the latest fish price index from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) hit a record high in May, up 15 percent from a year ago and above the peak set in mid 2011. Chinese demand for oysters and mussels up 20 percent year-over-year, according to the FAO report. 

As Penm sees it, the food market opportunities of the future will be in Asia, though there’ll be plenty of competition. He calculates the real value of agrifood consumption in Asia will grow from USD 1.8 trillion (EUR 1.4 trillion) to USD 2.8 trillion (EUR 2.2 trillion) — of which China will account for USD 1.8 trillion (EUR 1.4 trillion) — in 2007 dollar terms between 2007 and 2050. Growth in the rest of the world will be muted by comparison: USD 1.9 trillion (EUR 1.5 trillion) to USD 1.9 tillion (EUR 1.5 tillion) in the same time frame.

“Trade liberalization will be key to improving output and stabilizing prices of seafood as well as other agri commodities,” said Penm’s. He also sees lack of land and water as vital factors in meeting the food needs of a 9.3 billion population world in 2050.

In response to the challenges of output growth, Chinese aquaculture-focused seafood firms meanwhile are promising to up their game and output in China — and overseas. Questioned about China’s response to rising demand for seafood, the “propaganda department” at the China Academy of Fisheries provided a document to SeafoodSource listing successes of Chinese researchers in developing high-yield varieties of commonly consumed species. Among them: a cold-resistant “Tilapia Mossambica” variety that grows faster and offers higher meat yields than other varieties.

Likewise the “Yellow Sea no.2 Prawn” has improved disease resistance and offers weights of 30 percent higher than ordinary Yellow Sea shrimp. The Tai Lake no.1 freshwater shrimp meanwhile offers 25 percent extra yield and the Scophthalmus Maximus variety of turbot has a survival rate 18 percent better than normal varieties while offering a 24 percent improvement on average weights.  The “Optimal Perch 1” likewise is a bass growing 25 percent faster than normal bass fish.   

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