SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Shuichan] translated by Amy Zhong – December 6, 2017

China legally imports about 1,000 tons of Antarctic toothfish in total, while another 2,000 tons have entered this market either through smuggling or trans-border trade, according to an insider. Antarctic toothfish have been increasingly popular within the past few years. For example, during the most recent Singles’ Day festivities, the sales of toothfish from New Zealand and frozen salmon from Chile skyrocketed to 12 times the number last year on the JD platform.

Higher toothfish demand has boosted an increase in price. The prices have been on a continual rise since the second half of this year and so far they have risen about 20 percent, according to the marketing director for Austral Fisheries. And now Chinese importers and distributors are stocking these toothfish in preparation for the coming Chinese New Year in February, so their prices are expected to increase further and to a greater extent.

The price has set a new record. It was about 220 yuan ($33.26 USD) last year based on data from the customs, while the price grew to about 300 yuan ($45.35 USD) this year. But the problem of smuggling has also become increasingly serious due to the potential of higher profits. The average Antarctic toothfish supply is about 26,000 tons worldwide every year, while the exact numbers may change by less than 5 percent in someyears. China’s toothfish market has been expanding rapidly, importing 633 tons last year. One insider estimates that it legally imports about 1,000 tons in total, while another 2,000 tons enter this market through smuggling or trans-border trade.

Asian consumers show preference to large toothfish like those exceeding 10 kg (22.04 pounds) now, though they would rather buy the smaller ones such as those below 6 kilo (13.2 pounds), 8 kilo (17.6 pounds) or 10 kilo in the past. Japan used to be a main Asian buyer of toothfish, but its import volumes have been declined in recent years.

China is becoming an increasingly significant buyer. According to the data from China’s customs, the country has imported 199,783 kg (200 mt) of Antarctic toothfish (HS 03038300) from Chile within the first nine months of 2017. The import volume is 131,298 kg (132 mt) from New Zealand, while it is 92,571 kg (93 mt) from Argentina, 52,392 kg (52 mt) from France and 13,963 kg (14 mt) from Spain.