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The Imported Seafood Market in China

By eusme | Report      01.04.2020     Tags:

 China is the main seafood market worldwide if we consider several factors:

  • Main producer of seafood products worldwide.
  • Third global importer.
  • World’s largest exporter.
  • World’s largest consumer market.

Data shows that Chinese imports of seafood have experienced a large increase in recent years, particularly high in 2018, 43% compared to the previous year, rising from USD 8,214 million to USD 11,792 million. From 2010 to 2018, imports of seafood have grown 13% CAGR. Factors such as China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) on the national fishing industry issued by the Ministry of Agriculture of China, which aims to reduce local production in order to recover from years of overfishing, are also pushing forward in favour of imported seafood products for the time being.

In terms of potential, China’s seafood market still has a great need for growth due to the increasing demand of seafood both at home and out of home. Seafood consumption is currently on the rise in China. Main drivers are higher incomes of the growing middle class, better imageas a healthy protein source than meat, higher pricing of some types of meat due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak of 2018 or, much less, due to USA-China trade war. These factors are favouring the willingness of Chinese consumers to procure more imported seafood products.

The objective and scope of this report is looking into the Chinese market for imported seafood products. To do so, we have conducted a thorough research and analysis of current data in order to better understand, identify and describe the Chinese seafood market, import and distribution processes, sales channels, current role and opportunities for the EU companies, among other key issues.

Our aim is to deliver a general overview of the situation of the imported seafood products in China with special focus on the EU countries and the potential of their companies to enter such a large and complex market. This study should serve as a reference document for EU companies in the fishery sector to prepare the market entry strategy after obtaining approval to export seafood to the Chinese market.

The information contained in this report comes also from extensive fieldwork, official and media sources, and reputable organizations. We have collected data from different sources, but we have mostly relied on official sources from China to provide a consistent and coherent message across the report. We have also gathered and used data from European sources. It is appropriate to highlight that data from Chinese and EU sources sometimes differs, especially when it comes to trade statistics. One of the main reasons -although there are other factors- is that China is not quantifying all the imported seafood that is processed locally and then re-exported. 

Fieldwork activities, conducted to deepen the analysis and provide better insights, can be divided in two types based on methodology and scope:

  • Interviews to Chinese players in the fishery industry, across major cities China, regarding the local sector, current trends, and the role of imported seafood in the market.
  • Store checks:
  • Online store check of over 150 SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) in seven major Chinese e-commerce platforms. We outline at length the key findings in 7.2 E-commerce
  • Store check in supermarkets, both domestic and international chains, across the three major cities in China where seafood products are largely consumed: Beijing (Cityshop, Jenny Lous, Jenny Wong, Jingkelong, Walmart), Shanghai (Carrefour, Hema), Guangzhou (BLT, Carrefour, Olé, Walmart, Yonghui).
  • Store check in wholesale markets across four major cities in China where seafood products are largely consumed: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao.


Key Contents

1. Introduction

2. Domestic seafood market

  2.1 Domestic production

  2.2 Domestic consumption

3. Market access for EU countries

4. Imports

  4.1 Evolution

  4.2 By origin

  4.3 By regions

  4.4 By HS code

5. Taxation, pricing

6. Import, distribution and processing of imported seafood

7. Sales channels

  7.1 Retail

  7.2 E-commerce

  7.3 Foodservice

8. Current events shaping the industry

9. Main tradeshows

10. Conclusions


The EU SME Centre Phase II officially runs out on April 6, 2020. Publications remain available for downloading for EU SME users of the website. For further queries on the reports, you are recommended to contact the authors directly or email at info@eusmecentre.org.cn.

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