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Export opportunity – China – seafood retail

Key details

Export opportunity: Seafood retail

Country: China

Sector: Food and drink

China - seafood retail opportunity summary

China plays a central role in international seafood trade. China's seafood imports increased by 15.7% to 18 billion USD in 2021, making it the world's second-largest single-country seafood importer, after the USA.

During the Covid-19 outbreak in China, many new and emerging retail channels saw explosive growth within seafood categories as consumers were forced to eat at home instead of in restaurants and hospitality settings. 

Most consumers have maintained this purchasing trend as well as returning to consuming seafood in food service.

Based on market intelligence, the most popular imported seafoods for online and offline retail sales are frozen shrimp, crab, frozen cuttlefish and squid, lobster, frozen fish, rock lobster and other sea crayfish, fresh and chilled Atlantic salmon, frozen cod, frozen Alaska pollock. 

Scale of export opportunity

2022 was a strong year for imports of seafood products in China, with volumes rebounding from the relative lows seen at the height of Covid in 2020 and 2021, to the extent that they now exceed pre-pandemic figures. Over 4.5 million tonnes of seafood products worth £16.5 billion were imported into China in 2022 — a year-on-year increase of 37.3%. 

The Chinese seafood market is highly seasonal and holiday dependent. During important holiday seasons, seafood is one of the main products purchased online, for example during Chinese New Year.  

Company suitability

Scottish companies best positioned to win this type of business will fit with some of the following: 

  • Scottish producers of fresh and frozen seafood who could supply stable volumes of quality seafood at a competitive price 
  • Seafood producers that are ambitious about selling branded seafood products to premium retail markets 
  • A commitment to the preparatory steps required before entering the Chinese market, including obtaining an export licence  

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