Growing taste for qual­ity seafood lifts busi­nesses

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page - By CUI JIA in Hunchun, Jilin and LIU MINGTAI in Changchun

By mak­ing the most of its ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion and China’s open­ing-up poli­cies, Hunchun has be­come a ma­jor hub for fresh seafood im­ports from Rus­sia, as lo­cal ap­petites for top-qual­ity prod­ucts con­tinue to grow.

“Lit­tle do peo­ple know that 90 per­cent of the king crabs sold in China pass through Hunchun af­ter be­ing im­ported from Rus­sia,” said Lang Hui, deputy di­rec­tor of eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion for the Hunchun In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Demon­stra­tion Zone.

Many peo­ple are sur­prised to hear Hunchun is a hub for seafood dis­tri­bu­tion be­cause it has no sea­port, but they soon see the rea­son why af­ter learn­ing about its lo­ca­tion in Jilin prov­ince, he said.

Hunchun, which bor­ders Rus­sia and the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea, is 63 kilo­me­ters from the Port of Zaru­bino in Rus­sia’s Far East. The port has be­come a short cut for im­port­ing un­pol­luted, deep-sea ma­rine prod­ucts from the Kam­chatka Penin­sula.

“As Chi­nese peo­ple’s lives have been im­proved, more and more peo­ple can af­ford to treat them­selves to qual­ity seafood at higher prices, such as king crabs,” Lang said. “As a re­sult, the city de­cided to de­velop its seafood in­dus­try in 2010.”

That year, Hunchun could process only 1,000 met­ric tons of ma­rine prod­ucts, but in 2017 that had in­creased to 200,000 tons, with 116 com­pa­nies spe­cial­iz­ing in seafood im­ports.

How­ever, com­pa­nies im­port­ing DPRK prod­ucts, such as squid, have been greatly af­fected by the UN sanc­tions im­posed on Py­ongyang last year in the wake of the coun­try’s mis­sile test.

“Some have seafood pro­cess­ing fac­to­ries in the DPRK that have had to stop op­er­a­tion,” Lang said. “Also, many raw ma­te­ri­als wait­ing to be pro­cessed in Hunchun now can’t be ex­ported, caus­ing an eco­nomic loss of 300 mil­lion yuan ($43.1 mil­lion).”

To cush­ion the blow, com­pa­nies have shifted fo­cus to Rus­sia. Ac­cord­ing to the Hunchun gov­ern­ment, in the first eight months of this year, the trade vol­ume of king crabs im­ported from Rus­sia in­creased more than three­fold year-on-year.

Im­port­ing seafood from Zaru­bino is much faster than us­ing Dalian Port, the largest mul­ti­pur­pose port in Liaon­ing prov­ince and a tra­di­tional point of en­try for Rus­sian ma­rine prod­ucts, ac­cord­ing to Zhao Kuizheng, man­ager of Hunchun Xinhe Aquatic Prod­ucts and In­ter­na­tional Trade.

“When we first set up a pro­cess­ing fac­tory here in 2013, few of our in­ter­na­tional part­ners had heard of Hunchun. Now the city is a well­known name in seafood trade,” he said, adding that his com­pany plans to ex­pand its fa­cil­ity next year.

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