China

In China, consumption of seafood has been growing by an average of 15 percent a year over the past five years.

INDONESIA

Sabtu, 21 Sep 2013 16:42 WIB

Author

Mark Godfrey

China

China, imported seafood, sustainability, environment, Mark Godfrey

Chris Herbert is busy working at Starfish, Beijing’s first oyster bar.

He opened the bar several years ago to satisfy China’s hunger for high-end seafood.

“Oysters are our number one. Second would be between scallops, North Atlantic deep sea scallops, and our lobster. There is more interest in seafood in general. Live oyster consumption. Live oyster consumption is helped by people travelling more, they see other seafood and coming back want seafood in the way they saw it cooked overseas. ”

China’s demand for shellfish like oyster, for example, is growing at 20 percent a year, according to the Chinese Academy of Fisheries.

And the embrace of sushi culture is pushing more consumption for salmon and tuna.

“Sushi is very popular all over China,” says Fan Xubing who runs Beijing Seabridge, a consultancy promoting seafood imports from Canada, Norway and the US.

“Chinese people have a long tradition of eating raw fish but the modern sushi came from Japan to Hong Kong and then South China. And now consumers can find sushi restaurants in all the big cities. In the past 10 years more and more sushi restaurant chains opened, main species consumed are fresh salmon and tuna and shrimp.”

He explains why China’s consumption of imported seafood is rising.

“Income is rising. With incomes increasing China’s people’s interest in seafood is getting stronger. The second issue is food safety; we have had food safety scandals and therefore confidence in local food is not high. Imports of food, especially seafood, is seen as more clean and safe. The other reason is overfishing. Our fishing resources are heavily overfished and in the last 20 years we can find that local wild fish catch is less and less so people don’t have choice if they want to eat wild seafood.”

China’s growing demand for seafood is good news for fish dealers, like seafood importer Lan Luo – she runs the Beijing office of Norwegian seafood firm Ocean Quality.

She says that consumption of Norwegian salmon has increased by up to 30% a year in China over the past decade. And it’s driving up prices for seafood too, says Lan.

“For example, this year I have experienced the highest prices I have sold, over 30US dollars delivery price in China. That’s the highest. I think that it’s very expensive. But I am seeing the price increase each year. My customers are handling not only salmon, but also lobsters and shrimp and oysters, and white fish. And they tell me that it’s increasing by at least 20% a year.”

Last year, China became a net seafood importer and will gradually replace Japan as the largest seafood consumer in Asia.

As global fish stocks continue to decline, many worry that the trend will damage the sustainability of endangered species like cod, blue fin and grouper.

Fan Xubing points to a certification scheme that ensures Chinese buyers buy only from sustainable seafood suppliers.

“I’m not worried because most of the industry that we work with are managed very well. And many of them are getting the fish from fisheries with the MSC certificate, for sustainable fisheries management. With this, I think we can ensure that sources are managing the stocks properly and not overfishing the products.”

King crab, snow crab, brown crab… before you only saw these in high end restaurants frequented by China’s rich.

But now they’re becoming more popular in normal Beijing restaurants.

Chris Herbert is ready to expand his menu at the Starfish oyster bar.

“We are introducing more lobster onto the menu. We’re also changing our fish, most of it is imported. Right now we are getting more Alaskan products. I always look for wild products; among Chinese consumers wild has the perception of being of better quality than farmed.”




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