BEIJING: Seafood from Pakistan is gaining in popularity in China, not only because of its low prices but also because of support from government policies.
A report from the UK-based undercurrentnews.com in December 2016 said that China had overtaken the EU and Japan at that point to become the largest seafood export market for Pakistan.
“Currently, domestic demand exceeds supply in terms of Pakistani seafoodimports,” Chen Hai’ou, president of Kashgar Mufeng and Hezhengyuan Biotechnology Co, told the Global Times.
Several seafood distributors said that Pakistani seafood , compared with seafood imported from other sources, is more cost-effective.
In recent years, the Chinese government has rolled out measures that have encouraged and facilitated imports of seafood from Pakistan and India.
One example is the establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of the one Belt and one Road initiative, which has enriched the transportation channels for Pakistani seafood to enter China.
According to Chen, in the past, Pakistani seafood could enter China only via sea or air transport. But, after the corridor was set up, his company started importing Pakistani seafood by land transportation via Pakistan’s Gwadar Port as well as via Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
“Pakistani seafood needs to travel only for three days via land transportation to China, compared with 40 days by the sea, so the cash conversion cycle can be much shorter,” Chen said, adding that the seafood will be sold in northwestern and southwestern regions in China.
Chen also said that with the large demand for seafood in those regions, as well as the lower transportation costs, more companies will engage in seafoodtrade with Pakistan. “The business has a promising future,” he said.
Apart from transportation, the government has also lowered import tariffs on many types of seafood such as frozen crabs and shrimps, starting from December 2017.
Most observers believed that more international air cargo routes between Pakistan and China’s inland cities are needed to enhance seafood and fruits exports from Pakistan to China.
They agree that seafood and fruit can become bright spots in Pakistan’s exports to China, and the only question is how this potential can be realized.
Although the CPEC is designed to connect the Gwadar Port in Southwest Pakistan with Kashgar, most of the seafood sold in Xinjiang is transferred from the southeast coast of China, which is thousands of kilometers away.
Before Urumqi airport became licensed as a designated port of entry for imported chilled and fresh aquatic products last year, it took seven to 10 days for such imports to be transferred to inland Xinjiang after arriving on the southeast coast.
It is now feasible to meet Xinjiang consumers’ demand for seafood with Pakistan’s high-quality products, and this will certainly expand China’s imports from the South Asian country.