by Xinhua writers Zhou Qianxian, Lu Yun and Chen Guofeng
QINGDAO, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- At the China Fisheries and Seafood Expo (CFSE) recently concluded in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao, seafood dealers were busy selecting products and preparing for the upcoming Lunar New Year sales season.
Sun Zhiyong, a purchaser visiting the expo, told Xinhua that he used to buy large quantities of red meat in preparation for New Year banquets, but now he began to turn to seafood markets.
"My childhood memories of the dining table consists of a few fish. But now, gone are the days when seafood consumption was a luxury for Chinese people, who aspire to enjoy seafood as a part of their diet," said Sun.
China now is one of the world's largest and fastest-growing seafood markets. In 2018, the country's total output of aquatic products reached 64.58 million tonnes, 144 times more than that in 1949, with an annual per capita share of 46 kg.
"I've been in the seafood business for almost 40 years and I've never seen anything like it," said Peter Redmayne, president of Sea Fare Expositions, an organizer of the CFSE. "It's incredible that a market this big can keep growing this fast."
Meanwhile, with a greater variety of imported seafood flooding into China, Chinese consumers are able to taste a wide range of products as diverse as king crab from Russia, shrimp from South America, salmon from Norway and cucumber from North Atlantic.
"We see more and more overseas companies exhibiting at the expo each year," said Redmayne. "China is expanding imports to meet the growing demand for seafood among its increasingly affluent population. This is great news for seafood suppliers worldwide."
In the first eight months of this year, China's seafood imports surged more than 20 percent year on year in terms of both volume and value, according to Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Yu Kangzhen on the sidelines of the CFSE.
"People in China are becoming more interested in high-quality and wild-caught seafood products such as our best sellers cold water shrimp, halibut, sea cucumber and capelin," said Blaine Sullivan, president of Canadian seafood company Ocean Choice.
As an exhibitor at CFSE for over 10 years, the firm has seen over 15 percent of its products being exported to China with the number of species continuing to rise, Sullivan said.
Japanese seafood company Nissui is now in its fourth year of selling to the Chinese market, but with just a few of its sales coming from the country.
George Gao, general manager of China business development division in Nissui, said that the potential is strong, so the firm is still focusing on the Chinese consumers' tastes and preferences as well as considering to develop its supply chain in China.
In addition, a greater number of direct international flights to second and third-tier cities in China are making it easier to develop new markets, and China's customs officials are also clearing shipments more quickly.
"The next edition of CFSE will move to a new venue with more space, so we can meet the growing demand from overseas suppliers and Chinese importers," said Redmayne.