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Data shows huge shifts for frozen seafood in China
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By Mark Godfrey, SeafoodSource contributing editor reporting from Beijing, China

Frozen seafood production has declined in China’s traditional processing regions as new hubs like Tianjin and large inland cities have emerged as new areas for frozen seafood consumption.

Overall Chinese production of frozen seafood totaled 3.02 million metric tons (MT) in the first four months of 2015 — up just over 3 percent on the same period last year, according to the country’s ministry of commerce. The eastern province of Jiangsu leads the way: It produced 1.06 million MT, down 1.8 percent on the same period last year. Second-place Zhejiang province produced 1.02 million MT — up 18 percent.

The fastest growth occurred in Tianjin (pictured) — a city with an ambitious municipal plan to build a marine processing center — which saw its production increase 186 percent to an albeit modest 16,976 MT. But three provinces that have traditionally dominated seafood production were all down in the first four months: Output in Liaoning province — home to key processing hubs like Dalian — fell 37 percent to 296,154 MT while frozen seafood output in Shandong — home to processing and trading ports like Qingdao and Yantai — fell 1.3 percent to 277,151 MT.

The key industrial province of Guangdong was flat at 357,465 MT of frozen seafood output in the first four months. It appears the province has lost the initiative to neighboring and second-place Fujian, which was at 533,849 MT,up 11.6 percent year on year. The tilapia producing Hainan province’s output of frozen seafood at 36,734 MT was flat year-on-year and looks modest next to provinces with large urban populations.

There appear to be several factors at play in the changing landscape of China’s seafood processing scene: rising consumption in inland provinces but also a shift to cater for domestic demand.

“Frozen seafood production is happening nearer the consumer markets, that’s why there’s growth in inland provinces, near the big inland cities,” explained Wang Long, a spokesman for Ningbo Aquatic Products Association, a trade body representing processors in Ningbo, a city with a growing seafood processing and canning industry.

It’s clear that huge growth in large inland provinces like Shanxi and Xinjiang are still restricted by a lack of cold-chain logistics services. There was a 30.7 percent jump in production in Xinjiang and a 591 percent jump in Shanxi but each produced only 340 and 22.7 MT, respectively, in the first four months of the year.

“There are great difficulties in producing frozen seafood in north-western provinces but it’s also a great opportunity,” according to a note analysing the figures from Minsheng Securities. Investors have carefully followed firms liked to benefit as China has prioritized state subsidies to improve the logistics chain nationwide, allowing some movement into inland markets.

Growth in inland production of frozen seafood is significant, given more than 75 percent of China’s seafood export traffic goes through the easterly ports of Dalian and Qingdao. Aquatic processing bases are located in or near four major aquatic production regions. Of the total 9,611 seafood processing facilities counted by the ministry of agriculture, 6,413 (or 67 percent) are concentrated in Zhejiang, Shandong, Fujian and Guangdong provinces. The province of Shandong (home to the Qingdao and Yantai processing hubs) ranks first for processing capacity at 7.9 million MT per year followed by Fujian at 3.3 million MT.

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