June 23, 2022


China's consumers contend with increased prices of salmon imports


Consumers in China are facing soaring prices for imported salmon, and that may not be good for long-term market growth, according to Fan Xubing, head of the Beijing-based seafood marketing consultancy Seabridge.


Exports of fresh Norwegian Atlantic salmon to China increased 67% in value year-on-year between January and May 2022, even while dropping 11% in volume. That jump is part of a global surge in salmon prices as many global markets bounce back following years of COVID-19-related dining and public gathering restrictions, according to Andreas Thorud, the Norwegian Seafood Council's representative in China.


"In addition, global developments outside the seafood industry, such as increased inflation and the war in Ukraine, have also contributed to higher food prices," Thorud told SeafoodSource.


However, Chinese consumer demand for salmon is now weakening, as the higher prices are stamping out any growth in salmon consumption, Fan said.


"In China, fresh salmon is 80% or more consumed in Japanese restaurants and the very strict control of COVID-19 in [the] first half [of] 2022 in China – especially in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen – restrained the demand for fresh salmon from the HORECA [hotel, restaurants, catering] segment in China," he said. "This means Chinese consumers are forced to accept much higher salmon prices. Of course, consumers of fresh salmon are normally higher-income people and they [can] probably afford the high price for a while."


In the long run, however, higher salmon prices in China will "destroy" healthy market demand for salmon "and consumers might shift to other species," he said.


Fan told SeafoodSource he saw Chinese consumers shifting more and more  to domestic seafood and cheaper imported seafood in 2021 and 2022. He suggested the NSC should focus on consumer education and explaining "what's the value of such high-priced salmon for Chinese consumers."


Fan said higher prices for imported salmon have helped local finfish aquaculture firms post positive results.


"When imported salmon prices rise, local farmed trout will replace part of the imported salmon position," he said. "Another reason is in 2021, (the Chinese) government set restrictions on imported seafood and that gave local trout farmers a good opportunity."


In 2021, overall seafood consumption in China reached 68.8 million tonnes, up 2.3% year-on-year, but of that figure, only 29.6% went toward human food consumption. China's overall seafood output, at 66.9 million tonnes, was up 2.2% year-on-year, with aquaculture production up 3.1% to 53.8 million tonnes.


- SeafoodSource

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