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Illustration: U.S. Seafood Product Market. Analysis and Forecast to 2030 | indexbox.io

U.S. seafood trade deficit narrows, exports to China increase

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Tuesday, March 05, 2024, 07:00 (GMT + 9)

For decades, the U.S. seafood market has relied heavily on overseas imports. From 1995 to 2022, inflation-adjusted U.S. seafood exports fell by about 16%, while imports increased by 130%, resulting in a widening seafood trade deficit. The largest trade deficit recorded in the past 28 years was US$24.8 billion in 2021, and the second largest trade deficit occurred in 2022, at US$24.6 billion.

As imported seafood dominates the domestic market, opposition has grown louder, especially from industries with a major stake in domestic seafood production. This situation changes in 2023.

According to statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. seafood imports in 2023 will be 3.1 million tons, a year-on-year decrease of 9%, and the import value will be US$25.8 billion, a year-on-year decrease of 15%. At the same time, export volume increased by 3% to 13.286 million tons, with export value of US$5.4 billion. The trade deficit narrowed by about $4.2 billion from the previous year.

Main import markets

In terms of import value, Canada, Chile, and India are the major suppliers of seafood to the United States.

Canada is the largest supplier of lobster and snow crab to the United States, exporting 305,570 tons of seafood to the United States in 2023, worth US$3.618 billion, down 2% and 13% respectively.

Chile is the largest salmon supplier to the United States, exporting 313,188 tons of seafood to the United States in 2023 (a year-on-year increase of 2%) worth US$3.352 billion (a year-on-year decrease of 2%).

India is the largest shrimp supplier to the United States, exporting 325,583 tons of seafood worth US$2.55 billion to the United States in 2023, a decrease of 3% and 16% respectively.

In terms of quantity, although China's seafood exports to the United States dropped by 11% to 340,539 tons in 2023, it is still the country that exports the most seafood to the United States; the export value is US$1.555 billion, ranking seventh. It is worth noting that the United States has imposed high tariffs on Chinese seafood since 2018. The total tariffs on U.S. seafood products in 2023 will reach $348.9 million, of which $219.1 million will come from Chinese goods.

Main imported products

In 2023, with the exception of salmon, the top 10 seafood products by import value will all see declines of varying magnitudes.

Shrimp and salmon remain the most valuable imported seafood products. Shrimp import volume increased by 2% to 788,209 tons, but the import value decreased by 11% to US$6.441 billion due to falling prices. Salmon import volume was 500,754 tons, and the import value was US$6.264 billion, the same as in 2023.

Next on the list are tuna, lobster, and snow crab. Tuna imports were 281,984 tons (-12%), with an import value of US$1.944 billion (-17%); lobster imports were 48,535 tons (-7%), with an import value of US$1.448 billion (-7%). It is worth noting that the price of snow crab fell sharply, the import volume increased significantly by 32% to 59,344 tons, but the import value dropped by 28% to US$770 million.

Seafood export

From the perspective of export markets, China has surpassed Canada to become the largest export market of the United States. In 2023, the United States exported 317,035 tons of seafood to China, a year-on-year increase of 3%, and the export value was approximately US$1.05 billion, an increase of 5%. Canada ranked second, with export volume falling by 11% to 162,090 tons and export value falling by 6% to US$1.014 billion. Japan ranked third, with export volume increasing by 14% to 184,639 tons and export value decreasing by 7% to US$664 million.

From the perspective of export products, seafood from Alaska in the United States occupies a dominant position. Alaska pollock exports increased significantly in 2023, with a quantity of 326,256 tons, an increase of 13%, and a value of $1.004 billion. The United States also exported more frozen Alaskan pollock fillets in 2023, with export volume of 90,701 tons worth $347 million, a 14% increase in volume and a 17% increase in value.

Ranked second is salmon, also produced in Alaska, with an export volume of 202,496 tons (-1%) and an export value of US$964.6 million (-30%). The most valuable salmon product type was frozen sockeye salmon, with 32,659 tons exported and valued at $213 million, but volume and value were down 25% and 46% compared to 2022.

In third place is lobster. In 2023, the United States exported 34,476 tons of lobsters, including North American lobsters and spiny lobsters, worth $631 million, an increase of 8% in volume and 16% in value.

Ranked fourth is still Alaskan seafood-flounder, including halibut, turbot, sole and plaice. The export volume of halibut in 2023 is 110,631 tons with a value of US$201 million, which is a decrease of 5% and 7% respectively compared with the export volume and value of 2022.

The United States is one of the world's two largest importers of seafood, and a decline in U.S. seafood imports is bad news for other seafood suppliers around the world. The domestic aquaculture industry and seafood suppliers in the United States believe that the country’s seafood trade is too unbalanced and imports need to be further reduced.

The adjustment of the U.S. seafood market, characterized by reduced imports and shifts in export market strategies, reflects the complex interaction between global trade dynamics, consumer demand and economic factors and will have an important impact on the global seafood trade pattern.

Source: Zhejiang Zhoushan International Agricultural Products Trade Center(translated from original in chinese)



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