Source: Seafood News

April. 12, 2024

USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service released a report last month detailing the distribution channels for live seafood in China, potential market opportunities, and updates for 2024.

As the world’s largest consumer of seafood China is also the world’s largest seafood producer, mostly due to aquaculture.

“Estimated wild-caught production is significantly less than demand and continues to decrease due to tighter government regulations and deteriorating fishery resources,” the report notes. Seafood demand continues to grow, however, “with an increasing preference for high-quality products,” the report added. “There is a strong preference and demand for live seafood, and many high-end restaurants display live seafood for direct purchase by consumers.”

The March 14, 2024 “China Imported Live Seafood Products Market Update” looks at live exports of U.S. shellfish from all coasts, but primarily “King crabs, snow crabs, Dungeness crabs, Boston lobster, oysters, geoduck, and clams…”

Imports of live shellfish from the U.S. have increase significantly in the past five years, led by lobsters and lavagantes (crayfish), followed by mollusks and crab, with the lowest share in the live category, but that share growing since 2019.

The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) total live lobster imports showed a robust 29 percent year-on-year increase to $790 million in 2023. Imports from the United States increased 86 percent to $182 million, taking nearly 25 percent of the market, a historical high in the past five years. The United States is the second largest exporter of live lobster to the PRC, behind Canada which has 76 percent of the market. In 2023, however, the United States increased its share by 7 percent, largely due to decreased exports from Canada.

The report notes that the US is the fourth largest exporter of live crab to the PRC with 4.5 percent of the market, behind Russia (60 percent), Canada (10.5 percent), and Burma (5 percent), respectively. It includes a Due mainly to proximity and stable trade relations, Russia remains the largest exporter of live crabs; in 2023 alone, exports increased over 138 percent from $411 million in 2020 to $978 million in 2023. Canada’s larger share is reportedly related to more price flexibility, hard-shelled products, and a stable supply.

The report also covers the logistics of entering the PRC by air, land, and sea, including a distribution schematic for storage and final sale to consumers, predominately in high-end foodservice operations. It includes a case study for Russian king and snow crab entering northern China.

“At the China-Russia Hunchun land port, many trucks loaded with Russian live king crabs and snow crabs line up at the waiting area for inspection every day. Hunchun is located at the junction of China, Russia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and is surrounded by several Russian seaports. The closest seaport, Zarubio, is only sixty kilometers away, making it the most important destination for Russian live king and snow crabs. The Russian crabs are shipped by vessels the same day after being harvested .… Russian trucks equipped with technicians and equipment for seawater circulation, temperature control, and increasing oxygen content stand by at the Zarubio seaport. After they are fully loaded with king crabs and snow crabs, merchants will transport the crabs immediately to Hunchun Port through the land route,” according to the case study.

At Hunchun, appointment-based customs clearance is available 24-hours, 7 days a week.

“After inspection and customs clearance, all the crabs are transported to the local distribution center for weighing, sorting, and labeling. Almost 90 percent of the crabs will be distributed to various regions across China on the same day. The live crabs arrive in Shanghai’s wholesale markets within two days, while the rest of the crabs are kept in temporary water ponds around Hunchun city for future sale,” the report notes.

Market analyses, including consumer polls, increases consumption during specific times of the year, import fees and tariffs for lobsters, king and snow crabs, geoduck clams and oysters, along with maps and charts are all detailed in the report