The salmon market in China
Salmon, a fashionable meal in China
Chinese consumers see salmon as a very fashionable meal and the Chinese demand for salmon turns out to be surging. Chinese people are wealthier and enjoy showing it by consuming luxury products. In restaurants, ordering this fish which is one of the most expensive high-end products is a good means to display one's social status. The consumption of salmon sashimi in Japanese restaurants is becoming a popular trend in China. Moreover, salmon's red colour is an asset to attract Chinese consumers. Indeed, Chinese people pay great attention to the meaning and connotation of the products they consume. And red turns out to be China's colour, as well as a symbol of luck, wealth and power.
China importing salmon to satisfy the growing demand
To satisfy the growing demand for salmon, China imports salmon. Norway and Scotland are among China's salmon suppliers. However, the trade relationships between China and these suppliers have encountered some problems. When Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo received the Peace Nobel Prize in Norway, Norwegian salmon was declared unhealthy by the Chinese authorities. In 2010, when China banned Norwegian salmon imports, it started importing Scottish salmon. Willing to take advantage of this situation and become China's first supplier, Scotland decided to increase its production capacities. To boost productivity and meet the Chinese huge demand, many Scottish salmon farms were bought by Norwegian companies. With Scotland-farmed salmons sold to China, Scottish consumers were made to consume Norwegian salmon. Such a system is today severely criticized and some want to stop it. Indeed, the measures implemented to increase on a large scale Scottish salmon production are harmful to the Scottish marine environment. Moreover, Scottish farms being owned by Norwegian companies, it is pointed out that such a system makes China import Norwegian salmon. Anyway, China's relationships with Norway are now smoothing and Norway's salmon imports to China seem to be recovering. At the same time, environmentalist associations are attacking Scottish Prime Minister Alex Salmond and are urging China to stop buying Scottish salmon.
Chinese salmon growers determined to attract Chinese consumers
China is the world's biggest aquaculture and local salmon growers are determined to take advantage of the Chinese rising demand for salmon. Consequently, domestic salmon growers, mostly located in Shandong, are increasing their production. Supplying supermarkets, restaurants for salmon, sashimi retailers, they promote the advantage of buying local salmon instead of imported salmon. They argue that fresh local salmon is tastier and healthier than imported frozen salmon. Even if some fresh salmon is also imported, they stress the fact that local salmon reaches consumers sooner than imported salmon and use the popular sales method consisting of killing fish in the supermarket so that consumers try it in the supermarket or a bit later at home. Finally, purchasing local salmon is also economical, a local fish being about two-third the price of an imported one. All those features will certainly make less affluent Chinese people consume more salmon at home, the current situation being that 80% of salmon is consumed in restaurants, and only 20% at home.
China, a secondary processing centre
Despite increasing local supply, Chinese salmon imports are not likely to decline significantly. Indeed, China owns a very developed fish processing industry (to de-bone, fillet, defrost... fish). Consequently, salmon producers such as Russia, Alaska or Canada send salmon to be processed in China. Even if those fish are included in Chinese salmon imports, most of them are sent to the USA to be consumed over there after having been processed in China.