In short: By end of October 2016 the Bonafide team visited various shrimp farms near Guangzhou in southern China.
This trip was one more on site visit that provided us valuable insights into market conditions and trends regarding fish farming in China.
Guangzhou, known as Canton, is a modern, vigorous metropolis. It is the third largest city in China with a population of more than 15 Mio. It is the political, economic, sci-tech, educational and cultural hub of southern China.
Guangzhou is located in south-central Guangdong Province, north of the Pearl River Delta. It lies close to the South China Sea, Hong Kong and Macau.
Pearl River (Zhujiang), the third longest river in China runs through the city and is navigable to the South China Sea. These geographical features bestow the name “South Gate of China” upon the city.
This farm is producing shrimps in a RAS (Recirculation Aquaculture System) – a closed system.
We can define a recirculating aquaculture system as one that integrates wastewater treatment processes into aquaculture production (free login to download paper). This is done to regulate water quality. As well, fresh water usage is reduced drastically.
In our example here of a shrimp farm, its fresh water usage was cut down to just about 4%. This illustrates that the RAS technology offers plenty of more growth opportunities for aquaculture – i.e. the fish and seafood industry in China.
Don’t ignore the grow-out cycle for shrimps
In food production, one of the critical things is the grow-out cycle. Compared to salmon, shrimp has a far shorter one.
Once shrimp grow to about 1 gram, they need a larger space to grow up in. Accordingly, they are transferred to grow-out ponds. The grow-out cycle of shrimps are between 3-6 month depending on size. After that they can be sold.
Comparing this timeframe with the 18 to 24 months needed for a salmon, the shrimp grow-out cycle is very short.
Join the conversation
1. Have you ever been in the Guangzhou region? What impressed you the most?
2. What you think about aquaculture in China?
3. When shopping at your favourite store or fish monger, do you know how to check if disease causing micro-organism were contained using chemicals or if the fish you purchased was vaccinated instead?
The above illustrates that fish farming is a very important industry in China. Shrimp is the most valuable traded marine product in the world. Production is growing at an approximate rate of 10 percent annually. This represents one of the highest growth rates in aquaculture.
During the first quarter of 2016, Chinese shrimp export declined by 4 percent. However, local consumption is increasing.
China is the world’s largest producer of fish and shrimp using aquaculture technology. Today, acquaculture accounts for about 55% of shrimp produced globally. BesidesRAS (Recirculation Aquaculture System) can cut down fresh water usage to less than 5%. Moreover, fish farming if done properly can help reduce environmental impact and improve sustainability.
As well, China’s consumers are ever more interested in sustainable food production. This raising interest has given efforts in the fish farming industry and aquaculture a lot more attention than in the past. Specifically in urban areas, where Chinese consumers enjoy rapid growth in income the demand for “better” food has grown significantly. In turn, prices have been increasing (see also FAO resources)
Of course, in the meantime production methods have changed and productivity increased regarding aquaculture. With the help of RAS, sustainability matters have come into the equation. This has enabled suppliers to bring fish to the market that satisfy consumers’ demands for better animal welfare. Fish are raised under conditions that are better than a few years back. As well, use of antibiotics is going ever more down (see also Faroe Islands).
Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) faces challenges that can and have been turned into opportunities (e.g., new compartments such as algal and for aquaponics production to decrease environmental output). While there is a long way to go, we feel that policy support for further advancements in this field of aquaculture is strong in China.
The challenge for regulators will be to keep an eye on plenty of small scale operators. For them adhering to regulatory matters and being compliant is not always easy.