Ireland’s seafood exports to China increase by over 220% since 2012


A record fourteen Irish seafood companies exhibited on the Bord Bia stand at The China Seafood & Fisheries Expo in Qingdao last week. The Expo, which ran from 1st – 3rdNovember, is the largest seafood trade event in Asia, with in excess of 28,000 visitors from over 100 countries.

YU Kangzhen, Vice Minister of Agriculture, Ambassador Eoin O’Leary and James O’Donnell, Bord Bia

In 2013, China’s seafood trade surpassed €20 billion in value, cementing its position as the world’s leading seafood trading country. Growing incomes and increased urbanisation have helped fuel a massive growth in demand for imported seafood. China currently accounts for one-quarter of the world’s seafood consumption, and the United Nation’s FAO projects China will need an extra 16 million metric tonnes of seafood by 2020 to meet growing demand.

Traditionally, the Chinese market has been important for the Irish seafood industry predominantly for the sale of pelagic species. However, in the last few years significant effort has been invested by Irish processors and Bord Bia to identify and develop opportunities for premium shellfish in this growing market for seafood, notably for shellfish such as live and processed brown crab, langoustines, scallops and razor clams.

Tara McCarthy, Chief Executive of Bord Bia said, “The strong and sustained growth in exports in recent years demonstrates the continued success of Ireland’s leading shellfish processors in penetrating this valuable market. Exports of shellfish to China, for example, increased in value by over 32% between 2015 and 2016, while exports to Hong Kong increased by 13% during the same period. Bord Bia has ambitious plans to further grow the share of Irish seafood into China and has a number of programmes in place to assist Irish seafood processors in identifying, profiling and targeting new customers that are willing to pay a premium for quality seafood from Ireland.”

Through its trade development programme, Bord Bia has been very successful in encouraging high-end retail and foodservice Chinese customers to visit Ireland to meet with Irish seafood processors on a one-to-one basis. These itineraries have been very effective in generating new business for the sector, providing Irish companies with an excellent opportunity to showcase their processing facilities and allowing the customers to see first hand the world-class envirnonment in which Irish seafood is produced. These visits can provide a guarantee to Chinese customers on traceability, sustainability and food safety, all key issues of growing concern to the Chinese middle class consumer.

During the last 3 years, Bord Bia has welcomed more than 35 Asian customers to Ireland on customised itineraries. Many of these visits have delivered new business for Irish seafood processors, and in April 2018 as part of its Marketplace International event, Bord Bia will host an additional 20 Chinese seafood buyers in Ireland.

In line with the explosion of online sales & marketing in China, Bord Bia has taken a lead position, establishing a premium WeChat account to promote and present Irish seafood at both trade and consumer level. Bord Bia is also actively engaged with online sales platforms such as TMall as a new route to market for Irish exporters.

Plans for 2017 and beyond

In 2017, to futher increase exports of premium Irish seafood to China, Bord Bia will concentrate its promotional efforts on increasing awareness of new species from Ireland such as velvet crab, blue lobster and Irish prawns. Targeting premium chefs, media, and key opininon formers, Bord Bia will coordinate a series of cookery demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai, focusing on introducing recipes for these species that are new to the Chinese market.

The campaign will assist the Irish seafood processing sector to sell in their ranges to distributors servicing the premium restaurants and hotels in Beijing and Shanghai. In addition, Chinese consumers will be educated and informed through a comprehensive programme of in-store tastings with a number of supermarket retail chains.

Leading with a strong Bord Bia WeChat account and TMall promotions, Bord Bia will maximize the opportunities for Irish seafood through China’s fast growing online market by promoting the benefits of Irish seafood directly to Chinese consumers.