Numbers from the Trump administration’s yearlong trade war with China show big hits to US seafood sales.
Last July 6, China placed a 25 percent tax on US imports to retaliate against $250 billion tariffs Trump placed on products coming from China to the US.
Till then, China had been Alaska’s biggest export partner for seven years running, purchasing $800 million worth of wild seafood in 2017, a nearly 30 percent increase.
The trade war caused a 36 percent drop in US seafood sales to China valued at $340 million, according to an in-depth analysis by Undercurrent News. Lower catches also contributed to the decline.
The biggest drop was for American lobster where sales to China fell from $176 million to $25 million year to year, an 86 percent decline. It is believed that industry is now dodging the import tax by shipping large quantities of US lobsters to Canada and then selling to China under Canadian labels.
Imports of US crabs to China dropped in value to $60 million, a 49 percent decline.
Certain US seafood imports are exempt from the tax if they are sent to China for processing into fillets or portions and exported back to the US and other countries.
That includes whole frozen Alaska pink and chum salmon and codfish.
Over the past year, China imported $136 million of Pacific salmon, a 56 percent drop, and a 62 percent drop in volume to 38,926 metric tons.
Chinese imports of frozen cod decreased by 37 percent by volume and value to $91 million.
The new seafood taxes also pushed the US from being China’s second largest seafood supplier to fourth place, behind Russia, Ecuador and Canada.
Trump has threatened more tariffs and US trade reps resumed trade talks with China this week.
State run media said things got off to a rough start following a Trump tweet storm that said, “the problem with China is they just don’t come through.”
Two major Alaska processors said the tariffs and trade uncertainties have caused a downward press on prices, especially for pink and chum salmon.