Seedlings key in China’s five-year fisheries blueprint

Chinese fisheries officials are switching focus from building pelagic fisheries capacity to improving aquaculture yields in the latest blueprint for its fisheries sector.

As China gets set to lay out the priorities for aquaculture and fisheries under the 13th Five Year Plan, currently being drafted by government, a spate of end-of-year meetings hosted by the ministry of agriculture set the priorities China’s fisheries sector for 2015.

Improving the quality of local seedlings continues to be a top priority as China seeks to boost yields on key commodity species like shrimp and tilapia. That’s according to head of market analysis for fisheries and seafood processing at the agricultural ministry, Yuan Xiaochao, who addressed the ministry’s annual aquaculture conference held in the southern city of Fuzhou late last month.

He pointed to a Ministry of Agriculture “Number 21” document that sets out a key aim of improving seedlings for the aquaculture sector with an apparent stress on rebooting the catfish and growing the tilapia segments.

“Government supportive policies and funds will be available to provinces to fund research and production of seedlings,” Yuan told the conference.

Interestingly, there appears to be a shift northwards in tilapia production away from the congested industrial province of Guangdong. Government in December published a list of fish seedlings producers as bases for research and innovation. Hebei Zhongjie Tilapia Co. is named among a dozen firms listed in the 2014 National Modern Fisheries Demonstration Farm Seed list published by the agricultural department in December.

China faces “severe challenges” in expanding pond acreage thus we have to be more efficient and produce larger volumes,” explained head of the National Fisheries Extension, Li Kexin, at the Fuzhou conference. Officials from Li’s office were on hand last month when a demonstration farm for tilapia cultivation was opened by fisheries officials in Shandong province in December. This is significant given tilapia farming has traditionally been centered on lower-cost tropical provinces in southern provinces.

Catfish meanwhile appears to be making a comeback in the lower-cost inland provinces: Government-subsidized Hubei Jiaya Sanhu is listed as a national developer of quality catfish seed, along with Hunan Tian Jia Hu Yu Science Co. Speaking at the aquaculture conference in Fuzhou, the department’s chief official overseeing aquaculture called the fish farming sector a “fundamental core industry” for China and key to “protect food security.” Ding Xiaoming, head of the aquaculture section at the ministry of agriculture in Beijing, also called for “high quality” breeding of shrimp and crab and Mandarin fish to counter “irreversible” rising costs.

There appears to be a new push to increase quality and quantity of species popular in export markets, particularly catfish and tilapia. Only one firm (Xiangshan Gang Gang Aquaculture Seedlings Co.) on the government’s list of seedlings firms is producing seeds for yellow croaker, traditionally a high-end fish in China and nearby markets like Korea.

China’s five-year plans are useful indicators of where government priorities, in terms of policy and subsidies, will lie. The current 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2015) stressed that government would increase the efficiency of aquaculture and food output through model “standardized horticultural products bases, industrialized livestock and poultry farms and demonstrative healthy aquatic products farms” as well as establishing a list of regional wholesale markets.


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