The landscape of seafood export has been witnessing significant shifts in recent years, driven by evolving consumer demands, trade dynamics, and global events. China, a formidable player in the seafood import sector, saw its seafood imports surge by a remarkable 35% in 2022, reaching a staggering $19.13 billion. As the world's third-largest seafood importer, China's evolving import preferences have set the stage for new opportunities for seafood-exporting countries around the world.
Understanding China's Seafood Import Growth:
· Post-Pandemic Recovery: China's seafood import demand rebounded strongly in 2022, returning to growth trajectories seen before the pandemic. The country's seafood imports had shrunk by 27% in 2020, and while there was a recovery in 2021, it still lagged behind 2019 levels.
· Leading Supplier Countries: In 2021, Ecuador emerged as China's largest seafood supplier, a position it retained in 2022. With a seafood import value of $3.56 billion, Ecuador's seafood products, particularly its shrimp, found a robust market in China. Notably, this value grew by an impressive 63% compared to 2021.
· Emerging Suppliers: Russia followed closely as the second-largest supplier with an import value of $2.76 billion, marking a 48% year-on-year growth. Other significant seafood suppliers included Vietnam ($1.7 billion) and India ($1.26 billion).
· Steady Growth from North America: For North American suppliers like Canada and the United States, seafood exports, particularly lobsters, showcased steady growth, reaching $1.23 billion and $1.14 billion, respectively. China's consistent demand for these products has been amplified by a 30% tariff exemption on processed and re-exported items.
· Norway's Surprising Ranking: Despite being the world's second-largest seafood exporter, Norway's rank slipped to seventh place in China's import list. This unexpected shift is primarily attributed to subdued Chinese imports of salmon from Norway.
Impact of Japan's Absence and New Export Opportunities:
In 2022, Japan's seafood exports fell 3.8% year-on-year to 634,000 tons. Export value increased by 28.5% to 387.3 billion yen. The main export destinations are China (22.5%), Hong Kong (19.5%) and the United States (13.9%). These three regions accounted for more than 50% of total exports.
The most exported products from Japan were scallops, which accounted for 23.5% of total exports, amberjack, which accounted for 9.4%, and pearls, which accounted for 6.1%. The Japanese government has set a goal of realizing 1.2 trillion yen in fish exports by 2030, and has prioritized wuri, seabream, scallops, pearls and koi as priority products.
While the Japanese market offers opportunities for unique products such as seafood packages, seafood nuggets and seafood in sauces, it is an indisputable fact that seafood consumption has continued to decline in recent years. Consumption trends show that while Japan's per capita consumption of edible seafood peaked at 40.2 kilograms in 2001, by 2021 this figure has nearly halved to an estimated 23.2 kilograms.
The most significant development reshaping the global seafood export landscape has been China's decision to no longer import seafood from Japan. This change has led to a unique opportunity for other countries to step in and further boost their seafood export volumes to China.
Emerging Export Opportunities:
· South Korea: With its rich marine resources and well-developed seafood processing industry, South Korea is poised to increase its seafood exports to China. Premium products like Korean crab and various seafood delicacies are gaining traction among Chinese consumers.
· Indonesia: Indonesia's diverse seafood offerings, including prawns, fish, and crabs, can find a receptive market in China. The country's proximity to China and its focus on sustainable fishing practices enhance its appeal.
· Thailand: Known for its shrimp and other seafood products, Thailand's export potential to China remains promising. The country's established trade relations and quality seafood offerings create a favorable environment for growth.
· Vietnam: Vietnam's seafood export industry has been flourishing, with products like shrimp, pangasius, and squid gaining popularity in China. Its strategic location and competitive pricing contribute to its export advantage.
· Philippines: As an archipelago nation, the Philippines boasts a diverse array of seafood products. Leveraging its proximity to China and focusing on quality assurance can help it capitalize on this opportunity.
Seizing the Seafood Export Opportunity:
The changing dynamics of China's seafood import market provide a unique chance for countries around the world to enhance their seafood export volumes. By identifying key species in demand, ensuring quality and sustainability, and leveraging established trade relationships, exporters can position themselves to thrive in this evolving landscape. As Japan's absence reshapes the seafood import scene, these countries have a golden opportunity to expand their global reach, contribute to trade growth, and cater to China's ever-expanding appetite for high-quality seafood.
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