BEIJING: Figures for early April 2018 show salmon prices have spiking in China, up by over 50 percent year-on-year. Per kilo for large size (six to seven kilograms) of whole Chilean and Norwegian salmon at the Jingshen market in Beijing this weekend, as buyers sought to capitalize on lower supply following a crackdown on rampant smuggling from Vietnam.
The squeeze could, ironically, drive a new wave of smuggling to meet continued demand for salmon. Reports suggest an increase in smuggling in small amounts by pedestrians crossing the border between mainland China and Hong Kong – a route long favored by walk-over smugglers getting contraband U.S. beef through Hong Kong, duty-free, in their suitcases.
China’s salmon smugglers appear to have been collateral damage in a continued crackdown on politically connected triad gangs and an increased vigilance on illegal imports of waste after China banned such imports by its giant waste recycling industry from January 2018.
Several import-export companies operating in China surveyed for this article reported that China’s keenness to reduce pollution by enforcing its environmental rules – including an end to waste recycling – has resulted in more vigilance on all types of imports by customs.
“There are less places to hide,” according to one European executive sourcing from China and Vietnam for European buyers. China prosecuted 286 cases in 2017 of waste smuggling.
The clamp down on triad-type gang crime and ramp up in environmental enforcement efforts appears to have hauled in other forms of smuggling. But there are other factors at play, including a wave of demolitions of wet markets and wholesale markets across Chinese cities over the past year – seen by many as a means of regularizing retail channels and increasing sales tax collection.