Seafood pricing shifts in China

Published on
July 23, 2015

Prices paid for seafood continued to soften in the first half of the year according to data released by one of China’s largest seafood wholesale markets.

Data from the Jinan Seafood Market show a fall in prices for shrimp and crab while demand has shifted to mid-priced products such as locally farmed oyster and yellow croaker.

Located in the aquaculture-rich region of Shandong, the Jinan market is a hub for sourcing agents for hoteliers on China’s east coast. While the average price of hair tail fish fell 4.8 percent year on year to CNY 41.7/kg (USD 6.67, EUR 5.80) the price for smaller sized hair tail rose 1.8 percent to CNY 27.8/kg (USD 4.44, EUR 3.89), according to a report published by the municipal bureau of commerce. Spanish mackerel prices meanwhile average CNY 41.7/kg (USD 6.67, EUR 5.80) for larger-sized fish, down 4.1 percent. Large-sized pomfret prices rose 0.3 percent to CNY 148.8/kg (USD 23.80, EUR 22.32).

While demand for so-called luxury seafood remains subdued there are interesting instances of the market adapting: the Jinan report describes how prices for abalone have recovered after producers started to promote the medicinal benefits of the species. This is credited with an 8.8 percent rise in average per kilo prices to CNY 117.5 (USD 18.8, EUR 17.29). “Abalone meat contains an ingredient which can destroy the metabolites in cancer cells,” noted the statement from the Jinan bureau of commerce.

On the shellfish side scallops, at CNY 8.5/kg (USD 1.36, EUR 1.25), were up 2.4 percent while clams at CNY 8.5/kg were down 5.6 percent. Prices for local oysters rose 15.6 percent to CNY 7.4/kg (USD 1.18, EUR 1.11). Farmed yellow croaker at CNY 24.7/kg (USD 3.95, EUR 3.70) was up 16 percent.

By contrast crabs (of 200g-plus weight) fell 20 percent to CNY 127.8/kg (USD 20.4, EUR 19.17). Shrimp prices fell even more steeply, down 26.2 percent year on year at CNY 264.5 (USD 42.32, EUR 39.67). But prices have fallen significantly by late June on a surge in supply with traders at the Jinan market quoting as little as CNY 90 (USD 14.4, EUR13.5)/kg.

Weaker wholesale prices on the domestic market and a slump in imports of processing inputs have worried China’s fishery officials who were alarmed at 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.

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