Tariffs hurting Alaska seafood exports

Feb 27, 2019


Salmon have been spared from some trade disputes, but seafood exports to Alaska's biggest customer, China, are down.
Credit Redoubt Reporter

Tariffs put in place by the Trump administration on Alaska seafood bound for China have had a sizeable effect. Jeremy Woodrow, the interim executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute updated the House fisheries committee on that issue Tuesday.

There are a couple different tariffs in play. One is for all Alaska seafood products entering China, set at 25 percent. That went into effect last July.

“Of the members that responded back to us, 65 percent reported they had immediate lost sales from the increase in these tariffs. Fifty percent reported delays in their sales, and 36 percent reported that they’d lost customers in China, just due to these tariffs. And another 21 percent reported they had unanticipated costs because of the trade conflict. Those are big numbers. We have been tracking year-to-date exports to China. Right now it’s about 21 percent lower than it was a year ago, and we’re not even through the whole year," Woodrow told the committee.

The other tariff is the retaliatory one for processed product coming back from China. It will go to 25 percent on March 1st. Woodrow says there are some important exemptions for that one, including salmon, cod and pollock. But if the markets for processing in China change too much, it’s tough to move them to a different location.

“I think everybody would love to be able to pivot and find new markets rather quickly, but the Chinese market is something the Alaska seafood industry and ASMI has been actively engaged in for over two decades. We’ve put a lot of effort into growing the Chinese market and developing the processing centers in China. It’s not something that you can simply, overnight, say we’re going to process our fish here or sell our fish there. Those relationships, those markets do take time to develop. If we get China back, that’s great, if not, we can expect it will take time to develop new markets.”

China is by a wide margin the biggest importer of Alaska seafood at $989 million. Europe comes in second, at $717 million.