FEED Business Worldwide - August, 2011
China's aquaculture sector: Vast in size & challenged from all sides
by eFeedLink's Shanghai analysts
According to the data from China's National Bureau of Statistics, the country's 2010 sea food ouput increased by 4.9% over the previous year and amounted to 53.66 million tonnes. Out of which, 38.5 million tonnes or 71.8% came from from aquaculture and 15.16 million tonnes from wild catch fishing, an increase of 6.3% and 1.4% respectively.
China, the largest producer of aquatic products and aqua farming in the world, is the only country whose aquaculture production is greater than the fishing output. It single-handidly accounts for approximately three-fifths of world's aquaculture output.
While growing faster than any other protein line, Chinese aquaculture's rate of expansion is decelerating. The growth of China's aquaculture industry was fastest during the period from 1991 to 1996, when output increased dramatically from 13.508 million tonnes to 32.881 million tonnes, an increase of 143.42% in 5 years and an average annual growth rate of 17.86%.
During this era and in the late 1990s, aquaculture output expanded faster than China's GDP which typically grew at around 10% annually. This five-year aquaculture boom shifted the focus of China's fishery industry strategy from wild catch to aquaculture
However, after 2000, the next ten years saw China's aquaculture grow at only an averatge rate of 5.77%, which is much lower than the country's average GDP growth rate of 9.95% and the total national feed output growth rate of 8.14%.
Going forward however, a number of resource, climate and environmental pollution-related issues is challenging this sector's expansion.
Uneven water distribution hinders growth
With respect to the water resources so vital to aquaculture, China is in a paradoxical position of having its large endowment counterbalanced by an equally large population burden.
According to 2009 statistics, China's total water resources amount to 2.8124 trillion cubic meters, ranking 6th in the world, behind Brazil, Russia, Canada, the United States and Indonesia.
While this is a large endowment in absolute terms, it is not relative to the population China must support. China's per capita water resources of 2,240 cubic meters are considered to be at water shortage levels. According to World Bank Statistics, China's per capita water resources were ranked 88th out of 153 countries.
Moreover, this water endowment is unevenly distributed. There is an abundance of water in China's south and east but a scarcity in the north and west. This determines the distribution of Chin's aquaculture, especially freshwater fish farming. Fish farms are mainly located near China's eastern and southern coastal provinces such as Hunan, Hubei, Guangdong and Guangxi.
From China's water resources distribution map, the Qinling Mountains-Huai River line clearly divides the boundaries for the distribution of water resources. The southern region in the Qinling Mountains-Huai River area is rich in water resources while the northern region is basically faced with water shortage.
As water resources are also fundamental to agricultural production and economic development, even areas with rich water resources such as East China, Hunan and Hubei, Guangdong and Guangxi have only limited resources for the development of aquaculture. Furthermore, in recent years, rapid economic development without proper environmental protection has caused contamination and eutrophication of water resources, in many cases causing them to be unsuitable for aquaculture.
Aquaculture requires a larger land space than hog and broiler farming. Thus if allowed for vast expansion, it will inevitably compete against traditional livestock lines for scarce land resources.
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