More Chinese trade tariffs are hitting Alaska seafood coming and going. The first 25 percent tax went into effect on July 6 on more than 170 U.S. seafood products going into China. This week more items are added to the list, notably, fish meal from Alaska.
“So as of right now nearly every species and product is on that list of tariffs.”
Garrett Evridge is a fisheries economist with the McDowell Group. China bought 54 percent of Alaska’s seafood last year, valued at nearly $800 million. Alaska produces more than 70,000 metric tons of fish meal per year, mostly pollock, with salmon a distant second.
“To give a sense of scale, in 2017 we estimate about $70 million worth of fish meal from Alaska was exported to China and that fish meal is produced all over the state – at Bristol Bay, Unalaska, Kodiak and other places. Pollock is the primary input for that meal production and it is used in China primarily for aquaculture purposes.”
Anchovy-based fish meal from Peru is the predominate source for world aquaculture, but white fish meal made from Alaska pollock is the premium.
It commands $600-$700 per ton more than Peruvian meal and according to Undercurrent News, Alaska pollock meal is currently trading at up to$2,300 per ton,.
The tariffs on seafood products going to China is a done deal. Evridge says in the long run, Alaska might be able to shift exports to other countries, but the mere size of the Chinese market makes it tough to replace.
“At least on the Chinese side it looks like there is little recourse. At least in the short course, there is little ability for the Alaska seafood industry to avert these tariffs that will be put in place on products.”
And there’s also a flip side. Trump has proposed a 25 percent tariff on products imported into the U.S. from China.
It would include seafood caught in Alaska, sent to China for reprocessing into fillets or fish sticks and then resent to the U.S.
“That will be the case possibly next month when those tariffs go into effect on the US side. They currently are not in effect but they have been proposed.”
Negotiations between the world’s two biggest economies are ongoing and seafood stakeholders can comment to the U.S. trade office through September 5.
Evridge says it’s discouraging –
“We’re kind of a pawn in a broader game. From my perspective, folks are doing what we can. It’s also happened at a time when a lot of people are out fishing so it might not be on their radar. It’s difficult to not be able to do much. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the industry and the Congressional delegation and governor’s office are engaged closely in the issue and there is an opportunity for Alaska communities and fishermen and families and other stakeholders to make comments.”