SWSS: More growth to come for China’s processors
The fish processing industry in China will continue on its current output growth trend in the coming years, according to the country’s leading seafood trade association.
Speaking at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit 2016 (SWSS16) in Malta, Dr. Cui He, executive vice president of the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA), confirmed the volume of processed seafood would keep on increasing in order to meet the demands of its export trade and its growing domestic market.
There are now more than 7,000 processing plants in China, mostly located in coastal areas, which generated a combined output of 20 million metric tons (MT) in 2014. Aquaculture contributes the most raw materials into these facilities.
While the total processed volume is unsurpassed and firmly puts China at the center of the world’s seafood processing industry, Cui suggested that probably the most important point of all is that it took the country less than 20 years to modernize the sector and establish it as No. 1, as up until the 1990s, it existed “very simply” to meet the storage needs of products during the harvest season.
The tools used to that point were limited to knives, salt and containers, he said.
“Now we have the most modern processing industry and we’re exporting all over the world.
“In one stop, you can buy every seafood in China. That’s because we are importing raw materials from more than 30 countries. The big suppliers are Alaska, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and South American countries like Argentina and Brazil.”
Most of the whitefish species that China sources are re-exported, but around 50 percent of the flatfish imported is consumed domestically as is almost all of the squid it brings in.
“We import something like 60 percent of the world’s squid,” said Cui.
China is also the world’s leading importer of carp species, and the No.2 importer of shrimp, behind the United States, bringing in more than 300,000 MT of the latter per year for the last three years.
“I think we will continue to increase this purchasing in the future,” he said. “This market needs more processing product.”
Despite the huge increase in processed seafood output, such products currently account for just 35 percent of China’s own seafood consumption, much lower than in developed countries. But Cui is confident this market share will grow and continue to increase. He also believes the rising e-commerce sector will “pave the way” for their increased popularity.
“The younger generations don’t want to clean fish. It’s a hard job for them,” he said.
Cui also pointed out the country’s processors will look to become more efficient, introducing onboard processing and freezing lines. Furthermore, because of rising labor costs, many will look to bring in highly automated facilities supported by advanced technology.
Overall, China’s fisheries and aquaculture sectors produced 61.7 million MT of seafood in 2014, with 74 percent coming from aquaculture. In the near future, aquaculture’s contribution is expected to rise to 80 percent, said Cui, adding that aquaculture meets 85 percent of the domestic demand for seafood.