China’s Hunger for Alaska Seafood Rising

Alaska’s seafood exports to China for the first 10 months of 2011 were valued at $762,795,549, out of the state’s total seafood exports of $2,242,202,197 for that period. Those are the preliminary figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, which values all commodities by the commercial invoices that accompany shipments, usually the first wholesale value, says Patricia Eckert of the Alaska Office of International Trade.

Seafood, in fact, led all other exports from Alaska in value for those months in 2009 through 2011. Final export figures for 2011 are due out this coming spring.

Those purchases by China are a jump up from $484,895,187 for the same months in 2010 and $400,543,908 in 2009.

Seafood exports to Japan for the same months in those years were $527,392,711 in 2011, $464,830,703 in 2010 and $483,401,577 in 2009, and Koreans purchased seafood valued at $274,556,271 in 2011, up from $251,393,089 in 2010 and $216,959,105 in 2009.

Eckert said the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has estimated that 70 percent of the seafood going to China is for reprocessing, and later re-exporting to Japan, Europe and other areas of the world, while 30 percent is for domestic use for China’s rising middle class. A decade ago, maybe less than 10 percent of that seafood was for domestic consumption, she said.

One reason more seafood is being processed in China is because of lower labor costs and because China has come into compliance with the European ISO (International Organization for Standardization) system, she said.