Xinfadi outbreak to have short impact on global salmon business
Published: Jun 14, 2020 09:48 PM

A driver gets his temperature tested before driving at the temporary trade spot for vegetables and fruits in Beijing on Sunday after the Xinfadi market was closed. Photo: Xinhua

The global seafood industry will sustain a temporary blow after the latest coronavirus outbreak Beijing's Fengtai district, causing salmon sales to be suspended nationwide, analysts said.

The virus was detected on a chopping board used by a seller of imported salmon at Fengtai's Xinfadi market, which led to the shutdown of the market and other major seafood markets in the capital city on Saturday. As a precaution, many supermarkets and restaurants in China decided to take salmon off their shelves.

The outbreak is expected to affect salmon imports in China, since imported salmon accounts for 85 percent of the market in the country, with at least 100,000 tons imported annually.

"As the probe into the cause of the latest outbreak is underway, salmon business around the world will be affected," Cui He, president of the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA), told the Global Times Sunday.

China's top three salmon import sources are Chile, Norway and Faroe Islands, which together hold a 70-percent share. The rest comes from Canada, Australia and Scotland, the Global Times has learned.

"The impact of the Xinfadi outbreak will expand from wholesale markets to supermarkets and restaurants, so the whole food chain may feel the pain," Cui said, although it's too early to gauge the impact.

Beijing's major supermarket chains including Chaoshifa market, Wumart and Carrefour all stopped selling salmon from Saturday. A manager at Chaoshifa market said that all of its salmon were imported and have been removed, the Beijing Daily reported.

The latest outbreak cast a further shadow on the seafood industry, which was hit by the previous outbreak.

From February to May, the sales volume of salmon products fell 60 percent. Sales of king crab were down 80 percent and those of turbot declined 70 percent, according to the CAPPMA.

However, Cui said the impact would be temporary.

"Compared with the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak months ago, this development is nothing for the industry. The prevention and control measures are more restrained, and the government and the industry have been quicker to respond," Cui said.

"Although none of the salmon in the seafood markets has been found to carry the virus so far, consumers still have difficulty accepting that salmon is safe to eat," Cui said.

Weng Qiang, a purchasing manager at Sunkfa Holding Group, a leading seafood company based in Beijing, told the Global Times Sunday that all seafood products are being held at ports by customs until further notice.

"Until the government releases the goods, there's little we can do," Weng said.

The company gets 50-60 percent of its seafood from Chile, 20 percent from Norway and the rest from other countries including the UK, Canada and Australia.

China's seafood imports have been booming, especially in recent years, while demand from many other countries has slumped due to the pandemic. As a result, China has a key role to play to revive the global seafood market.

As a major source of seafood including salmon, Norway's seafood exports to China have been increasing. Norway exported 3,141 tons of salmon to China in April, up by 97 percent year-on-year, according to the data of the Norwegian Seafood Council. The country held a 45 percent market share of fresh salmon to China from January to April 2020.

"Before the Xinfadi incident, the Chinese market had recovered to 70 percent of the pre-pandemic level," Weng said.

However, Weng said the impact on his company would be limited and the entire industry would soon get back to normal after the outbreak is controlled.