We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to browse this site or by choosing to close this message, you give consent for cookies to be used. For more details please read our Cookie Policy.

China seafood market update: Imports, e-commerce & more

It’s no secret that China gobbles up seafood in enormous quantities. It is by far and away the world’s largest seafood importer – and demand for top quality produce is rising every year.

Your average Chinese citizen is expected to eat 35.9kg worth of fish and seafood annually by 2020. In some areas, such as in Shanghai, this figure has already been surpassed, and consumption levels are exceeding 40kg per capita per year.

So what’s happening in China’s monolithic seafood import market? There are some emerging trends in China that are making the nation the ultimate destination for exporters worldwide.

Imports of top seafood varieties rising

China’s voracious appetite for fish, crustaceans, and seemingly the sea’s entire bounty, can be reflected in rising import levels.

Data from Chinese customs show a 17.1% year-on-year increase between January and June 2017 – worth around $4.2 billion. By 2017’s end, China is estimated to import seafood goods worth $8 billion.
This makes seafood the fastest growing import sector in China.

E-commerce makes seafood more accessible

Rabobank seafood analyst Gorjan Nikolik has highlighted the power of China’s rapidly rising e-commerce sector in getting more seafood onto consumer’s plates. After all, China is huge, with substantial parts of its population living thousands of miles from the coast.

“China’s a country of big numbers – 731 million smartphones,” Nikolik explained in a podcast. “85% CAGR in the last 5 years for online retail. Online grocery sales are $13 billion now, and expected to hit $35 billion by 2018.”

For Chinese consumers, being food online has some unique advantages against traditional retail:

• Convenience & choice - Thousands of products are available online that are unlikely to be found in bricks-and-mortar stores.
• Authenticity – Chinese buyers believe they are getting genuine produce, as labelling issues and product substitution is a big problem domestically.
• Cold chain – Online retailers have massive logistical and economic heft in China, meaning the nation’s otherwise shoddy cold chain network is well served by digital sellers.

Nikolik also states that providence and premium quality are key buying drivers.

“Premium and provenance – those are the two things that will help you sell online in China,” he said.

“Online sales introduce the capability to introduce provenance and brand,” Nikolik continues. “It’s not easy to brand fresh products, whereas online far more information, particularly about seafood products, can be brought in and it is information and provenance that really sells seafood.”

“We’ve already seen a number of countries do a great job in China – particularly Norway, with Norwegian salmon, which is really developing a quality brand in China; Canada has done well too, with scallop and lobster,” he added.

North Korean seafood banned

North Korea, possibly the most controversial nation of modern times, has recently been slapped with big economic sanctions by the UN, which China is backing by placing an embargo on imports North Korean seafood.

Products offered by North Korean fisherman included molluscs, processed fillets, crustaceans, and non-filleted frozen fish. 

In 2016, Pyongyang received $190 million from sales of seafood to China, with sales totalling $68 million in Q1 2017.

The ban has presented a deficit of several thousand tons of seafood – opening up the already massive market to international suppliers.

More seafood infrastructure & logistics services coming

To cope with China’s growing hunger for all things seafood, infrastructure at key destinations is being tweaked to suit live, chilled, and frozen produce.

In Shanghai, China’s seafood gateway, a new dedicated port for live seafood opened in 2017. Located on Hangshe, a small island in the mouth of the Yangzte, this is now the first port of call for live produce entering the world’s largest city.

Likewise, Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminal, the air freight facility that serves Shanghai, has installed a 100,000 ton capacity cool centre for perishable items, thanks to the sheer volume of salmon imports entering China.

International carriers are now offering more services to Asia on the strength of the region’s appetite for seafood. DHL for instance now offers a 20 hour direct flight from Norway to China as demand surges.

Capture the excitement of China’s seafood import market at World Seafood Shanghai (SIFSE)

For exporters looking to capitalise on China’s massive appetite for seafood, there is only one place to meet the China’s biggest seafood buyers, distributors and importers: World Seafood Shanghai (SIFSE).

Held at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre every year, the event is a specialised fish and seafood exhibition aimed at meeting local demand and closing supply gaps.

Want to grow your leads this giant seafood market? Contact us today to book your slot, or to discuss how you can take part in the next edition of World Seafood (SIFSE).


Related Events

Event26 Aug


26-28 August, 2022


Get in Touch

Want news like this in your inbox?