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Growing UK landings of brown crab could find welcoming market in China post-Brexit

Datetime: 2019-03-29

By Neil Ramsden


UK brown crab landings have been rising since 2008 and, thanks to China, the post-Brexit market outlook is not as bleak as it is for other shellfish species, according to a study by Cumulus Consultants.


From just over 20,000 metric tons in 2008, 2016 UK landings were 33,300t, the study found. Of this, roughly 57% was landed by English vessels; 34% by Scottish; and 2% and 8% by Welsh and Northern Irish vessels respectively.

"The major harbors landing crab (all species) in 2016 were in England and Scotland. However, it should be noted that most harbors in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland report landing some crab. This broad distribution across many different harbors in all regions of the United Kingdom highlights the value of crab to fishermen across the UK."


The landing value of 2016's catches was estimated at £47 million, making it the third most valuable shellfish (at landing) in the UK sector.


Brown crab is processed and sold in the UK and overseas, primarily to the EU but also to China, the report noted. Brown crab exports were also in the region of £47m in 2017, 64% of which was to the EU.



Cumulus found that the vast majority of the UK's shellfish sales to the EU, in the event no free trade agreement is made post-Brexit, will incur "most favored nation" tariffs. For brown crab, this will be 7.5-8% (compared with 2.2% incurred by European Economic Area exporters like Norway and Iceland).


For several species, this means losing competitiveness with no established market to turn to. For brown crab though, it may be a different picture.


Tariffs on brown crab sold to the EU would mean a cost to the UK shellfish industry of £3m, the consultancy estimated.


In 2017, in the region of £30m in brown crab exports were to the EU, and in the region of £15m went to China. China was the largest non-EU market, accounting for 18% by volume of trade.


"The volume of frozen brown crab sold into China has increased markedly between 2015-2017, whereas sales to other major markets have remained relatively constant," the report said.


"High prices paid by the Chinese market are dependent on a specification of supplying queens (female crabs) only, of sufficient size and with intact claws."

Those Chinese sales have lifted from around £1.5m in 2015 to some £6.5m in 2017. By comparison, exports to France -- the single largest EU market -- have remained flat around the £5m mark.


The price paid for live, fresh or chilled brown crab for the Chinese market is consistently higher than that paid for product destined to the EU market, the study further noted. The downside is that access to the Chinese market is "inconsistent, being subject to sudden and unexpected technical barriers".


New Source: Undercurrent News