New Beijing outbreak deals blow to consumer confidence in China with seafood sales dropping 70%

By Yin Yeping and Yang Kunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/29 19:58:44

A seafood vendor solicits customers in Beijing's Sanyuanli Market in February. Photo: Li Hao/GT

The new COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing has dealt a heavy blow to the nation's seafood sector, pushing sales down 60-70 percent compared with pre-pandemic levels, and analysts said it's the worst time for the industry in decades.

Seafood orders are canceled and marketplaces are shut in Beijing, where about 25 percent of China's seafood consumption takes place. Consumers elsewhere in the country are cautious, too, and it's taking a heavy toll on the sector. 

Cui He, president of the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA), told the Global Times on Monday that the seafood market is experiencing its worst period in decades.

From February to May, the sales volume of salmon products fell 60 percent year-on-year. Sales of king crab were down 80 percent and those of turbot dropped 70 percent, said Cui.

Weng Qiang, a purchasing manager at Sunkfa Holding Group, a leading seafood company in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday that the company has slashed imports since the new outbreak, and the seafood market as a whole has seen revenue drop of 60-70 percent.

"Beijing takes 25 percent of our total sales, but the impact on consumer sentiment from the Xinfadi outbreak is felt across the nation," Weng said.

In order to convince people that seafood is safe, Sunkfa has uploaded on e-commerce platforms a photocopy of the certificates of the nucleic acid tests for its seafood products, with other related information such as the sources of their products and the ports of arrival.

"We are providing our supply chains for public inspection to reassure consumers about safety," Weng said.

The company also offers discounts of up to 60-70 percent.

But the efforts are not enough. To cut its losses, Sunkfa is selling fresh salmon that's past its expiry date to firms that make animal feed - but the company can only recover about 30 percent of the product value.

A seafood vendor on an e-commerce platform surnamed Wu told the Global Times that his company and its partnership with many restaurants have been cut off since June 13. Their inventories were low, so they're waiting for the seafood market to reopen to stock up.

Wu's biggest problem is that clients are returning some products, causing him around 250,000 yuan ($35,325) in losses. That's in addition to more than 10,000 yuan in labor costs and rent amid the outbreak. Normally at this time of year, his monthly income is about 1 million yuan, but all he can do now is try to minimize his losses.

"The seafood industry will take another two or three years to make a full recovery," Wu said, adding some of his upstream suppliers who import the seafood from countries like Canada and Norway, are taking even a heavier hit.

Weng is more optimistic than Wu.

"I believe the market will recover in August as the outbreak is being largely contained," Weng said. But it will take time to regain public confidence.

Newspaper headline: Worst era for seafood as sales sink 70%


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