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China’s fresh seafood import market has broad room for growth

According to a market research report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (click to read the original text to get the report), China’s shrimp, crab and shellfish import market still has a lot of room for expansion after experiencing explosive growth. Boston lobster, Dungeness crab, king crab, etc. Demand for fresh products is expected to continue to rise.

In 2023, China imported US$790 million worth of live lobsters, an increase of 29% over the previous year; imports of live crabs reached US$1.63 billion, an increase of 26% year-on-year, and imports of shrimps, crabs and shellfish accounted for more than three-quarters of the total imports.

Last year, the value of live Boston lobsters exported from the United States to China exceeded US$182 million, a significant increase of 86% from the previous year, setting a new high in the past five years. U.S. Polynesia accounts for about a quarter of China's market share, and Canada still occupies a major position. In 2023, China imported US$604 million worth of live lobsters from Canada, a year-on-year increase of 17%.

In addition, the supply of live crabs (mainly Dungeness crab) from the United States to China accounted for 4.5% of China's imports, or US$73 million. The United States is the fourth largest supplier of live crabs to China, behind Russia (60%), Canada (10.5%) and Myanmar (5%).

Due to the close and stable trade relationship between China and Russia, Russian crab exports increased by 138% between 2020 and 2023. Canadian crabs continue to expand sales in the Chinese market with their flexible prices and continuous supply advantages. Myanmar blue crab sales have increased by 104% in the past three years, benefiting from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the easing of epidemic controls.

USDA pointed out that Chinese consumers' preference for imported fresh seafood provides many opportunities for U.S. producers. China is the world's largest seafood producer, but local supply of some varieties is relatively limited. More and more Chinese consumers are pursuing high-quality and internationally recognized products. The demand for lobster, king crab, and Dungeness crab is increasing day by day, especially in celebrations such as banquets and weddings.

USDA said that Chinese consumers generally believe that seafood is a source of healthy protein, and the convenience of Chinese e-commerce platforms has promoted the delivery of fresh seafood and stimulated demand. U.S. exporters can capitalize on this trend by offering some products that provide a competitive advantage in terms of quality and variety. In addition, major festivals such as the Lunar New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival are peak seasons for the sales of fresh seafood, with demand rising significantly. U.S. producers can open up the Chinese market during these holidays and gain more business opportunities.


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