China’s Seafood Product Exports in 2023: Three Categories Dropped& Two Major Factors

Chinese Exports of All Three Categories are Decreasing, and The Situation is Not Optimistic

Although China’s aquatic exports in 2022 were not bad, the China seafood export in 2023 is not optimistic. According to the latest marketing statistics, China’s primary aquatic products (03 items) exports in the first half of 2023 were US$5.16 billion. And year-on-year decrease of 20.0% from US$6.19 billion in the first half of 2022. Among them, the sub-total exports of Shandong, Fujian, and the other five major export provinces were 4.73 billion. That is year-on-year decrease of 21.4% from US$5.75 billion in the first half of 2022. Such a sharp decline is very rare, given that the global epidemic has passed and production and logistics have returned to normal.

In terms of deep-processed seafood, exports of deep-processed fish (1,604 items) in the first half-year of 2023 were US$2.02 billion. With a 22.1% decrease from US$2.47 billion in the same period of 2022. Deep-processing shrimp, crab, and squid (1,605 items) exports were US$2.60 billion, 4.5% less than US$2.72 billion in the first half of 2022. Which is the best performance among the three categories of products.

In the first half of 2023, the export value of the three major categories of seafood in China all declined. The largest decline was in deep-processed fish. Primary aquatic products accounted for the largest export value, and deep-processed shrimp, crab, shellfish, and squid had the smallest decline.

Comparision of China's Aquatic Product Exports in the First Half of the Year | Ocean Treasure

Total Export in the First Half of 2023 Decreased by 16.3%

From the perspective of the total export value of the three types of seafood products in China, it was US$9.78 billion in the first half of 2023. Compared with US$11.37 billion from the same period of 2022, a drop of 16.3%.

Among them, the five major exporting provinces have a total export volume of US$5.26 billion. With a decrease of 8.5% compared with that of US$5.71 billion last year. It shows that the five major provinces are more resistant to risks than other provinces. Exports in other provinces have fallen even more, and the situation is even less optimistic.

Export of Primary Aquatic Product: Fujian Significantly Reduced, Liaoning Bucked the Trend of Growth

Speaking of primary seafood product export in China, in 2023, Shandong, Fujian, and Zhejiang all suffered recessions. Among them, Fujian’s exports fell by 64.7%, those of Shandong decreased by 21.7%, and those of Zhejiang declined by 10%. In the first half of the year, only Liaoning’s export volume increased by 23.9%, while Guangdong’s grew by 2.5%.

The reasons are complex. We believe that one reason is that. During the epidemic last year, many aquatic product processing plants in Liaoning were closed. And the orders were temporarily transferred to Fujian’s aquatic product processing plants. In the first half of this year, Liaoning’s processing plants resumed production, and these orders returned to Liaoning. The import, purchase, and transportation of raw materials are also transferred at the same time. Fujian fell as much as 64.7%. Not only because of the transfer of orders from Liaoning but also the overall decrease in foreign orders.

Export of Deep-processed Fish: Guangdong Decreased significantly, Liaoning Has Grown Against the Trend

In terms of deep-processed fish exports, the situation is similar to that of primary aquatic products. In the first half of 2023, Fujian, Hainan, Shandong, and Guangdong all suffered recessions. Among them, Guangdong’s export volume fell by as much as 58.1%. Hainan’s export volume decreased by as much as 55.4%, Fujian’s decreased by 13.9%, and Shandong’s decreased by 10.7%. In the first half of 2023, only Liaoning’s export volume increased by 19.9%. Zhejiang’s export volume dropped slightly by 0.2%.

Guangdong and Hainan are both large export provinces of tilapia and golden pomfret. Most of these products are exported to the US market. In 2023, when Sino-US relations are increasingly tense, it is not surprising that the export of these products to the US has decreased significantly. Moreover, the high inflation in the USA also affect the import of tilapia fillets and golden pomfret fillets. Together with the decline of seafood imports. The reason for the growth of Liaoning’s exports is also the “compensation effect” of the closure of many processing plants last year. Besides, it’s also the resumption of production this year. The market is not particularly favorable to Liaoning. It is necessary to remind Liaoning’s export enterprises not to be blindly optimistic.

Export of Deep-processed Shrimp, Crab, Shellfish and Squid: Relatively Good, Basically No Recession

In terms of the export of deep-processed shrimp, crab, shellfish and squid, the situation is quite mild. In the first half-year of 2023, only Guangdong’s exports decreased by 32.7%. Shandong increased by 6.7%, Liaoning and Zhejiang also increased slightly, and Fujian saw a slight decrease.

The reason for the sharp decline in Guangdong’s exports is estimated to be the decrease in exports of headless shrimp and bread shrimp, which are also mainly exported to the United States. In addition to the fierce competition among countries, the import of shrimp from the United States decreased for many months this year. Which also caused a significant reduction in the export of shrimp products in Guangdong.

Exports in other large exporting provinces has risen steadily. It indicates that the products of these provinces are not the categories with the most severe market decline. Especially deep-processed shrimp products, since the United States is the largest market in the world. Those products either belong to niche boutiques category, or non-US demand, or new products launch. In fact, such products are the most promising in the international market.

High Inflation and Trade War: The Main Reasons for the Collapse of China’s Seafood Exports

Supposedly, in the first year after the epidemic, production and logistics are recovering, and China’s seafood imports are thriving. So, what caused the dismal situation in the first half of this year? We think there are mainly two reasons:

1. High Inflation has Led to Weak Consumption in all Countries

Since the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates in the second half of 2022, the interest rate of US Treasury bonds has become higher and higher, especially in the first half of 2023, which has driven interest rate hikes around the world, resulting in a general rise in prices. Compared with other foods, the retail price of seafood has risen more, and seafood is not an essential food but an optional food, so the demand and imports of seafood in various countries are decreasing, and consumers spend their limited money more on the daily necessities of food expenses than seafood products.

We can compare the monthly imports of seafood by major countries in recent months. In January 2023, the monthly imports of major seafood importers such as the United States, Japan, and Spain began to decline compared with January 2022. In April 2023, the monthly import value of more major seafood importers declined year-on-year, including the United States, Japan, Spain, South Korea, France, the United Kingdom, and so on. As the market of more and more seafood-importing countries begins to shrink, the situation of global seafood exports in 2023 is not optimistic. This situation is expected to continue in the second half of this year, even until the end of the year.

This global market decline extends beyond seafood and food. Therefore, in the first half of 2023, China seafood export declined significantly, mainly because of the weak consumption of various countries caused by high inflation.

Monthly Comparision of Seafood Imports by Major Countries (202301 vs 202201) | Ocean Treasure
Monthly Comparision of Seafood Imports by Major Countries (202301 vs 202204) | Ocean Treasure

2. The Trade War Has Led to a Shrinking Market for Chinese Products in the United States

The United States is the world’s largest importer of seafood, and China was previously one of its main suppliers. Many American fish (Alaskan pollock, Pacific salmon, various kinds of sole, red snapper, etc.) are also processed in China and sold back to the United States.

As can be clearly seen from the following charts: Before 2018, China was one of the most important suppliers of seafood to the United States, including the three categories of 0300, 1604, and 1604. However, since the Sino-US trade war began in the second half of 2018, US seafood imports from China have gradually decreased and gradually shifted to neighboring countries such as Canada, Chile, Ecuador, and Asian countries such as India, Vietnam, and Indonesia. It is expected that the quantity and variety of seafood imported by the United States from China will further decrease in the future. In recent years, Chinese enterprises have also tried to enter the US market through third countries, such as Malaysia, Mexico, and other countries, but after all, it is inconvenient and the cost is considerable.

With the further deepening of the United States “de-Sinification”, the United States may import less and less aquatic products from China in the future. Those Chinese aquatic products export enterprises that are deeply dependent on the United States market should make adjustments as soon as possible.

List of supplying markets for a product imported by United States of America 
Product: 03 Fish and crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates | Ocean Treasure
List of supplying markets for a product imported by United States of America
Product: 1604 Prepared or preserved fish; caviar and caviar substitutes prepared from fish eggs | Ocean Treasure
List of supplying markets for a product imported by United States of America
Product: 1605 Crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates, prepared or preserved (excl. smoked) | Ocean Treasure

Ocean Treasure: Your Reliable Supplier in Asia

Ocean Treasure keeps an eye on the latest seafood market, and we provide first-hand information and insights into the seafood industry. It’s expected that in the second half of 2023, China’s aquatic product exports, especially the export of deep-processed aquatic products, will gradually improve. Ocean Treasurer is certified by BRC, ASC, and MSC, so we are qualified to supply a wide range of seafood from Asia. Contact Ocean Treasure and get your quotation from our multilingual team of professionals. We ensure the right products at the right prices for you. Choose Ocean Treasure: your reliable supplier in Asia.

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