pile of shrimps on plates

Thai Seafood Exports Poised for Growth as China Suspends Japanese Fish Imports

The Director of the Office of Trade Policy and Strategy (TCO) within the Ministry of Commerce has revealed that Thai seafood exports are set to receive a boost following China’s decision to suspend imports of marine products, including fresh seafood, from Japan since August 24, 2023. The suspension comes amid concerns over the potential contamination of seafood with radioactive substances, triggered by Japan’s release of treated wastewater containing such substances from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

The Hong Kong government has also taken action by imposing import bans on seafood products originating from multiple Japanese provinces, including Fukushima, Tokyo, Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Niigata, Nagano, and Saitama. The products affected encompass fresh seafood, chilled, frozen, dried, and those processed using various food preservation methods, including sea salt and seaweed.

Despite these measures, Japanese authorities have emphasized the safety of the water released into the sea, a claim supported by the certification from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a United Nations agency.

While these measures are expected to have a significant impact on Japan’s seafood exports, particularly to China—its largest export market for fishery products, accounting for 26.9% in the first seven months of 2023—China has various alternative sources for seafood imports. This diversification includes countries such as Ecuador, Russia, Canada, India, the United States, Norway, Vietnam, Indonesia, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, and Thailand. As a result, the suspensions are not expected to significantly affect China’s overall seafood supply.

For Thailand, this presents an opportunity for certain fishery products to flourish in the Chinese market. Specifically, products like squid, fresh, chilled, frozen, and processed mussels, as well as chilled and frozen fish meat, frozen fresh fish, chilled and frozen shrimp, and prepared and processed fish, are poised to benefit. Thailand has a strong track record of exporting these items to China, underpinned by robust quality control measures. This positions Thailand well to meet the increased demand and expand its footprint in the Chinese seafood market.

In the first seven months of this year, Thailand recorded notable growth in fishery product exports to China, including canned and processed seafood, which reached USD 221.9 million (a 45.5% increase), and canned and processed seafood exports, which amounted to USD 31.4 million (a 48.7% increase). These figures underscore the potential for Thai seafood exports to continue their upward trajectory in the wake of China’s suspension of Japanese seafood imports.

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