SEAFOODNEWS.COM [ZJ News] translated by Amy Zhong – October 12, 2017

Wenzhou people eat 5,000 imported oysters every day. At the same time, the city’s seafood import volume grew by 15 times in the third quarter from the same period last year.

One Wenzhou trading company, Haowoga, imported 320 kg of oysters from the Netherlands on Sept. 29. All these oysters were sold out within one day. The situation was similar with the 432 kg of oysters it had imported earlier. Haowoga imports two batches of live seafood like oysters from the Netherlands every week, said Zhang, its chairman. And now it plans to import frozen seafood from other regions like New Zealand to meet local demand, which is increasing rapidly.

Haowoga is the only Wenzhou company that imports seafood directly to the city. It just started the business in March. Currently most imported seafood here come from Shanghai and Guangzhou, according to Zhang. Shanghai mainly supplies this city with live seafood, while Guangzhou provides more frozen seafood. Zhang began the direct import of live seafood by chance because one of his partners had cooperated with some seafood suppliers. The export company in the Netherlands has been working in oyster aquaculture for more than 100 years. It can produce nearly 200 tons of live seafood like oysters, mussels and lobsters every day. And the company has been eager to enter the Chinese market.

According to the statistics from Wenzhou Entry-exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, Wenzhou imports eight batches of aquatic products weighing 2,080.64 kg in the third quarter. The two numbers have skyrocketed by three times and more than 15 times respectively compared with the same period last year. And 91 percent of the imported seafood are oysters. Another Wenzhou company also imported seafood directly to the local market, staff from the bureau said. However, the company shut down after about one year due to the high cost and profits lower than expected. Haowoga has been the only one left since the first half of this year.

Wenzhou’s imported oysters have mostly been from France. Although Haowoga’s oysters are caught in the same sea areas, they are less popular than the French ones in Wenzhou. Zhang’s company relied on online sales channels and restaurants for its oyster sales at the early stage. It only imported about 100 kg of oysters every time then. But the company is said to import roughly 1 ton of oysters per week now. It supplies nearly 10,000 oysters, but its market share is still very small in Wenzhou. According to sources’ estimates, this market consumes more than 5,000 imported oysters every day. And the demand is especially high in high-end restaurants. Daily sales reach as high as about 1,000 oysters (100 kg) in at least one restaurant. Imported food, mostly seafood, make up 70 percent of cuisine ingredients in another restaurant.

Wenzhou’s main imported seafood are oysters, salmon and shrimp. However, it is still challenging for others seafood products such as mussels and lobsters to compete with local seafood because of the great price differences between them. It is difficult to calculate exactly how much imported seafood Wenzhou people eat every day. But imported seafood is supplied to most high-end restaurants, the Japanese-style ones, etc., on a daily basis. Furthermore, young consumers prefer to order oysters and scampi shrimp while eating in restaurants, while the middle-aged ones like tiger shrimp and imported fish better.

Imported seafood has also become increasingly popular in family gatherings. Zhang’s consumers were mostly companies’ senior executives and talents working in the financial field at the beginning. These consumers usually bought about 2.5 to 5 kg of oysters every time. Some bought as much as 25 kg at one time. These oysters were prepared for gatherings or as gifts.

For example, Zhen has been one of Zhang’s regular customers. She started to buy seafood from Zhang four to five years ago. Apart from oysters, she also likes to buy others like scampi shrimp, salmon and lobsters. It is said that imported seafood products are mostly priced at about 200 yuan/kilo (~$14/lb. USD) in Wenzhou, while one such cuisine is sold at about 100 to 200 yuan in restaurants. The prices are within the budgets of many local consumers, which in turn promotes local seafood imports.