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Chinese growing tuna exports to US
- Sep 06, 2018 -

Although all the Undercurrent sources downplayed the impact of the tariffs on global tuna trade, China is selling significant volumes to the US which will likely have to be replaced. 

According to mirror data (based on import figures from customs houses, not China’s export figures, see below), from the International Trade Commission (ITC), Chinese total sales of prepared or preserved tuna, skipjack and Atlantic bonito, (whole or in pieces, excluding minced, HS code 160414) were $282.92m in 2017, up 16% year-on-year.

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Credit: International Trade Commission

The US made up over a third of that during 2017 at $112.18m, up 35% y-o-y.

Looking at the direct data from ITC (see below), based on Chinese customs figures, total exports in 2017 were worth $416.26m, up 15% y-o-y, with the US sales at $121.06m, up 34% y-o-y.

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Credit: International Trade Commission

This is pretty close to import data from the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). In 2017, the US imported 23,372t of tuna from China, worth $124.26m. This was up from 20,217t and $95.51m in 2016.

The ITC mirror data shows Mexico as the next largest market for China behind the US, at $51.52m, then Spain ($47.09m), Thailand ($22.04m) and Israel ($12.91m).

Looking at the direct data for China's tuna exports, Spain is second behind the US, at $68,79m, then Mexico ($50.75m), Portugal ($23.23m) and Taiwan ($22.03m).

Whatever the discrepancy between direct and trade data on ITC, the importance of the US for China is clear.

As an importer, the US has more options, however.

Looking at the ITC direct data for US imports using the 160414 HS code (for prepared or preserved tuna, skipjack and Atlantic bonito, whole or in pieces (excluding minced)), the US imported canned tuna worth $974.04m in 2017, with Thailand accounting for almost half, at $417.26m.Ecuador is third ($116.77m), China fourth ($112.17m), and Vietnam fifth ($90.78m).

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