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Trade Shows Link U.S. Seafood Exporters to Chinese Customers

Most Chinese consumers still await their first taste of U.S. salmon and other tasty U.S. seafood products. Accessing China's 1 billion potential customers can present an awesome challenge for U.S. seafood exporters wanting to gain entry and position in this burgeoning marketplace.

The Chinese market, where sales for U.S. seafood exporters have quadrupled in the past four years, promises continuing extraordinary growth. In 1992, U.S. exporters sold $19 million worth of seafood to China; sales had jumped to $79 million by 1996.

Some exporters may feel intimidated by the different cultures and languages they must work with to be effective business partners with Far East customers. But two proven strategies exist for the novice and experienced exporter entering this new market--trade shows and seminars.

Trade Shows Attract Thousands

Last year's first China Fisheries & Seafood Exposition '96 was held in Qingdao. Organized by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, Agricultural Sub-Council, the show provided unparalleled opportunity for potential U.S. seafood exporters.

Almost 400 companies from 30 countries exhibited at the trade show. The U.S. pavilion had a full range of seafood products: mackerel, trout, salmon, pomfret, yellowfin croaker, sole, herring, pollock, cod, halibut, redfish, haddock, squid, scallops, shrimp, crawfish, lobster and other shellfish.

Of these varieties, salmon, cod and pollock are becoming increasingly popular with Chinese consumers.

In addition to the seafood products displayed at the show, there were exhibits of seafood processing machinery, aquaculture feeds and fishing equipment.

The China Ministry of Agriculture screened many of the 12,000 visitors at the show. Attendees included executives and traders from hundreds of China's seafood processing, fishing and aquaculture companies and more than 1,500 buyers from other Asian countries.

This year, the exposition will be held November 4-6 at the National Agricultural Exhibition Center in Beijing, and is expected to be 50 percent larger than last year.

Another traditionally successful trade show, The Food & Hotel China '97, was held August 26-29 in Shanghai, providing another opportunity for U.S. exporters to meet future business partners.

This show exhibited food, drinks, supermarket and hotel catering equipment and supplies.

The show was organized by Hong Kong Exhibition Services, Ltd. (HKES) and marketed internationally by Overseas Exhibition Services, Ltd. (OES). Both are members of the Montgomery Network, organizer of a number of trade shows.

Last year's Food & Hotel China '96 in Beijing attracted 738 companies from 33 countries with 15 national pavilions in the show. The total exhibition area covered 13,580 square meters. Half of the 13,000 visitors were senior managers or owners of hotels or restaurants.

Seminars Popular with Buyers

Most Chinese seafood buyers and importers are not familiar with U.S. seafood products. The seminar format, either alone or in conjunction with trade shows, provides invaluable product familiarization to potential buyers.

Well-organized seminars allow U.S. exporters to meet Chinese trade contacts and become familiar with China's seafood industry, distribution system and current economic situation.

The seminar venue provides more specific and detailed information to potential buyers and leaves time and space to host an audience for furthering a business relationship.

Samples can be displayed, and introductory videos can be shown. The audience is free to ask questions about pricing, packaging and contract and delivery terms.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) held a particularly successful seminar in China, aided by 80-percent funding from USDA's Market Access Program (MAP).

In early 1997, ASMI, working with the Shanghai Agricultural Trade Office (ATO), organized a group of Alaskan seafood exhibitors who visited Taiwan before going to China to stage a seminar on Alaskan seafood and visit potential Chinese buyers.

The ATO helped attract 100 potential Chinese buyers and importers to the seminar. The visit and seminar resulted in significant sales, multiple trade leads and future promotional opportunities for members of the Alaskan seafood industry.

The highlight of the ASMI seminar was a filleting demonstration that showed the differences in flesh colors of five salmon species.

Alaskan wild salmon is gaining popularity in China. During January- February 1997, exports of Alaskan salmon to China increased by 850 percent over the same two months the previous year.

The ATO also encouraged ASMI to join in Stampede '97, a U.S. food promotion at the Shanghai Hilton in June.

Many U.S. seafood products are new to the average Chinese consumer. But these established approaches--educational introductions, sample promotions and personal contacts--are proven methods that can gain entry for U.S. exporters into the largest overseas market.

Book Your Space Now

U.S. exporters who would like to participate in the Beijing Fisheries & Seafood Exposition >97 trade show (Nov. 4-6, 1997) can apply for exhibit space:

Sea Fare Expositions
5305 Shilshole Ave., NW
Suite 200
Seattle, WA 98107
Tel.: (206) 789-6506
Fax: (206) 789-9193
E-mail: china@seafare.com

Need More Info?

For general information about seafood in China, please visit the Shanghai Trade Office's homepage:  http://www.atoshanghai.org/. To get a market report about seafood in China, click on ATO Services, then market research, Report CH7805. For further questions, please contact:

ATO Shanghai
PSC 461, Box 200
FPO AP 96521-0002
Tel.: (011-86-21) 6279-8622
Fax: (011-86-21) 6279-8336
E-mail: atos@public.sta.net.cn

The author is an agricultural assistant with the Foreign Agricultural Service's Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai, China. Tel. (011-86-21) 6279-8622; Fax: (011-86-21) 6279-8336; E-mail: atos@public.sta.net.cn