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China Becomes Leading Importer of NZ's Seafood

NEW ZEALAND - The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has this week released the latest fisheries and aquaculture production and trade figures, showing that China has now become the leading importer of New Zealand seafood.

The total value of fisheries and aquaculture exports for the calendar year (to 31 December 2011) was up 2.9 per cent on the previous year, at NZ$1.53 billion.

China imported NZ$299.6 million worth of New Zealand seafood in the 2011 year, becoming the leading importer ahead of Australia for the first time. Their main imports are New Zealand live rock lobsters, hoki and squid. The United States is the third-largest importer of New Zealand seafood and Hong Kong fourth.

Total wild fishery landings for the year were similar to previous years, at 435 thousand tonnes.

A lower catch of deepwater species, inshore finfish and inshore shellfish was offset by a higher catch of the pelagic species, mainly tuna, squid and mackerel.

The total volume of seafood product exports increased marginally (0.5 per cent) to 301.5 thousand tonnes.

Aquaculture export volumes increased by 3.8 per cent to 45,031 tonnes during the year ending December 2011, and total aquaculture export earnings increased by 12 per cent to NZ$307.4 million. Currently aquaculture export species are limited to green-ipped mussels, salmon and oysters.

Most seafood is traded in US dollars, and with the NZ:USD exchange rate still above the historic average this presents an ongoing challenge.

Also, the seafood sector uses significant amounts of diesel, for both catching fish and getting it to markets, and the cost of diesel has been generally higher since late October 2009.

Lucy Towers

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