Seafood to Hong Kong
Trends and opportunities
Hong Kong is highly import dependent, with 90 per cent of fish and seafood products imported (Source: CSR Asia, Seafood traceability: no fishy business, 4 Mar 2014). Hong Kong is also an important trading hub for re-distribution of some seafood products into mainland China, Macau and other neighbouring markets.
Hong Kong has a very high consumption of seafood, in excess of 70kg per capita in 2011 – the second highest in Asia (Source: Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, Statistics Division, 11 Dec 2014). Substantial demand exists for all kinds of seafood, ranging from the low-price fin fish (e.g. croaker and carp) to more expensive gourmet delicacies (e.g. abalone and lobster).
Hong Kong’s majority Chinese population has a strong preference for fresh seafood, resulting in unusually high demand for live and chilled products. An estimated 75 per cent of local fish and fish products are purchased in live or chilled form. However, as the cost of live seafood increases, industry sources believe consumers will purchase increasing amounts of frozen seafood.
Sustainable seafood is becoming more popular in the market. The launch of the WWF’s 2013 Sustainable Seafood Guide which lists seafood species, origins and harvesting methods help consumers, retailers, hotels, restaurants and air-catering companies make seafood choices according to ‘Green – Recommended’, ‘Yellow – Think Twice’ and ‘Red – Avoid’ categories. Industry sources estimate that 20 to 25 per cent of seafood consumption already comes from sustainable sources and this is rising.
Australia is a major supplier of gourmet shellfish sold in Hong Kong. The main items exported from Australia include: live, frozen and canned abalone, frozen scallops, live lobsters, frozen prawns, coral trout, oysters, mussels, king crabs, as well as selected fin fish for western catering.
In 2013, Hong Kong fish and seafood imports were valued at US$3.2 billion, representing growth of four per cent. Australia was the fifth largest supplier with a four per cent market share. In 2013 Australian seafood exports to Hong Kong were valued at more than A$265 million. Hong Kong was the second largest export market for Australian fish and crustaceans and largest for prepared or preserved seafood (Source: ABS and DFAT Trade Statistics, Composition of Trade, 11 Dec 2014).
Australia enjoys positive perceptions as a supplier of fresh, safe and high quality seafood. In recent years, Hong Kong consumers are increasingly concerned about food safety and health. Recent food scandals (e.g. oil fish, gutter oil, melamine) have driven buyers to source from more regulated and reliable food suppliers. There is also growing demand for sustainable seafood from retailers, hotels, restaurants and air-catering companies.
While Australia has an international reputation for sustainable seafood practices, Hong Kong consumers look for recognisable and authoritative markers for both sustainability and safety. This is providing increased opportunities for seafood that is recognised by a third party and labelled accordingly. This may include labelling highlighting sustainability (whether farmed or wild), MSC certification, WWF recognition and any recognised industry body endorsements.
Alongside interest in sustainability, food safety is a key concern and provides opportunities for Australian seafood which is recognised as safe and clean. Positioning of seafood products to take advantage of this reputation will be beneficial.
In relation to individual seafood categories, market feedback has shown interest in the following products:
- oysters (fresh)
- sea cucumber (frozen, ready-to-cook)
- sea urchin (fresh)
- fish maw (dried fish bladder)
- value-added seafood products (e.g. marinated mussels in vacuum retail pack).
Tariffs and regulations
Hong Kong is a free trade port with no tariffs and no restrictions on importing of fish and seafood.
Health certificates issued by Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources are highly recommended for expediting customs clearance and re-export purposes.
Marketing your products and services
Finding the right partner to distribute or represent your product and market promotion are keys to success in Hong Kong. Promote your export business with a marketing package or a concept working together to build the business and not just focus on the product itself. Companies may consider the following:
- Visit the market before seeking to export.
- Select a committed agent (importer or distributor) and work hard on building the relationship for the long term.
- Use a qualified export packer (if your volumes are too small to sell direct to an overseas importer) or team up with a producers’ association for collective export marketing and logistics.
- Work closely with buyers in the market as mutual trust is important. Partnering via a Hong Kong company may also help you learn how to engage in direct trade with mainland China.
- Demonstrate a willingness to support promotional activities to market your products.
- Develop innovative products and packaging.
- Set up your own representative office in the market, ensuring ownership of the customer network (rather than depending on the ‘goodwill’ of the agent). Once your presence is well-established, additional export business from others could be taken on.
Seafood distribution channels maintain traditional methods of distribution and sales. The importers normally distribute direct to retailers (e.g. supermarkets, wet markets, online food stores) and the food services sector (hotels, restaurants and institutions). Importers also play an important role in the re-export distribution to China and Macau. However, the importer, wholesaler and distributor are often the same company.
For further information, download Austrade’s guide to Food Retail Stores in Hong Kong and Macau (PDF).
Participating in trade shows is another way of marketing your products. While there are a number of food related trade fairs and exhibitions in Hong Kong, for seafood the Seafood Expo Asia is the most important and attracts buyers from across the region.
Seafood Expo Asia
Links and industry contacts
Fish Marketing Organization
Hong Kong Chamber of Seafood Merchants Limited
Government, business and trade resources
The Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (Austcham)
Bilingual Laws Information System
Centre for Food Safety
Hong Kong Customs & Excise Department
Hong Kong SAR Government
Hong Kong Trade Development Council
Invest Hong Kong
South China Morning Post
Hotel Asia Pacific
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Please note: this list of websites and resources is not definitive. Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement by Austrade. The information provided is a guide only.
The Australian Trade and Investment Commission – Austrade – contributes to Australia's economic prosperity by helping Australian businesses, education institutions, tourism operators, governments and citizens as they:
- develop international markets
- win productive foreign direct investment
- promote international education
- strengthen Australia's tourism industry
- seek consular and passport services.
Austrade provides information and advice that can help you reduce the time, cost and risk of exporting. We also administer the Export Market Development Grant Scheme and offer a range of services to Australian exporters in growth and emerging markets.
For more information on how Austrade can assist you, contact us on:
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A list of Austrade offices (in alphabetical order of country) is also available.