Traditional traders send out mixed signals
Middle class shoppers in China are showing a growing appetite for seafood products and a passion for imported delicacies as they prop up an industry going through turbulent times.
Data released in August by the Ministry of Commerce showed that China imported seafood and fish products worth $3.52 billion during the first seven months of this year, down 5.12 percent from the same period of 2014.
Aquatic exports reached $10.66 billion during the same period, a year-on-year drop of 4.7 percent, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Against that backdrop, leading businesses in the traditional seafood sector are having to work hard to retain their market share.
At the Seafood Expo Asia 2015 event, which was organized by Diversified Communications earlier this month in Hong Kong, opinions were mixed about state of the industry.
Cooke Aquaculture, the world’s largest independent, fully integrated salmon farming company based in Canada, was bullish about the Chinese sector.
Marketing Director Andrew Lively pointed to the rising sales in upmarket seafood products, fueled by middle class consumers.
“We believe this trend will continue into the foreseeable
the future,” Lively said.
But there are challenges ahead. China’s economy is slowing, while the depreciation of the yuan since August by as much as 3 percent has increased the price of expensive imports, such as seafood products.
D&D Seafood Corporation, a lobster exporter based in the United States, has had to adjust to the new economic environment. The company has been in China Dopico said. “But for foreign seafood exporters like us, this was a piece of good news.
“We can move back from a ‘corrupted market’ to a realistic market and get a better idea of real prices instead of artificially high ones.”
Other companies also felt the pinch.
Zoneco Group, a Chinese wholesale company based in Dalian, and specializing in scallops, sea cucumbers and abalone, has reported a 30 percent drop in business this year compared to 2014.
Domestic sales account for 70 percent of the firm’s revenue.
“Not only are domestic sales shrinking, but prices are going down,” Jackie Yin Youchun, managing director at Zoneco, said at the Expo in Hong Kong.
“We are forced to shift our focus to the middle-end market as well as roll out some cheaper products for the mass market.”
To add to the company’s problems, the overseas market in scallops is stagnating,