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Rainbow trout grower banks on BRI boost for big rewards

Updated: Aug 21, 2019 By Zhong Nan China Daily Print
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Qinghai Minze to tap nation's rising demand for fresh, smoked salmon

Qinghai Minze Longyangxia Ecological Aquaculture Co, a major rainbow trout grower by production volume in Northwest China's Qinghai province, will raise its output to 15,000 metric tons by the end of this year to supply both the home market and economies related to the Belt and Road Initiative.

Located in China's inland region, the company has already supplied rainbow trout products, raised in clear and cold water, to Russia, and has developed trout-related tourism and sport activities around the Longyangxia Reservoir to take part in the country's poverty alleviation campaign.

A worker cleans fish processing equipment at a plateau fish farm in Longyangxia Reservoir of Northwest China's Qinghai province in July. Provided to China Daily

Rainbow trout can be labeled and sold as salmon in China, according to revised rules issued last year by the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance, a trade organization under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Ying Miyan, chairwoman of Qinghai Minze, said supported by Norwegian technicians and fish handling systems, the company purchases fish fries and feed from the United States, Denmark and Norway to meet both Russia and China's fast-growing appetite for fresh and smoked salmon.

The key growth drivers are the higher disposable income of the burgeoning middle income group, diversified online and offline sales channels, and the rising popularity of salmon in lower-tier cities, she said.

"Even though China's trout output is increasing, the size of the country's trout industry is still small, far from meeting domestic consumption demand, and largely depends on imports," said Yu Lu, vice-president of Beijing-based China Chamber of Commerce of Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products (CFNA).

In 2018, China imported over 220,000 tons of trout products from global markets, mainly from Norway, Chile and the United States, data from CFNA show.

Longyangxia Reservoir is 2,600 meters above sea level and has an average water depth of 64 meters, with 383 square kilometers of water and an average annual water temperature of 12 C, said Hua Bentai, deputy head of Hainan Tibetan autonomous prefecture's government in Qinghai.

In comparison with ocean fish farms in Norway, the fish farm, located on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, needs to control factors such as salinity and ammonia nitrogen in the water, he said.

Jia Guoyong, deputy director-general of the Trade Development Bureau of the Ministry of Commerce, said the China-Europe freight train service launched in 2017 to link Russia with Golmud in Qaidam Basin of Qinghai will help the inland province ship more salt lake chemical, agricultural and aquatic products to markets related to the BRI.

The trip covers about 6,360 kilometers and takes 10 days, about 30 days less than the previous sea route.

China's first deep-sea fish farming facility, Shenlan 1, was also put into use for salmon cultivation in the Yellow Sea last year, which enables the country to achieve large-scale breeding of fish in the warm open seas, according to Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Co, the facility's maker and a subsidiary of China Shipbuilding Industry Corp.

The submersible aquaculture facility can dive to a depth of 50 meters and is able to rise or descend according to ambient water temperature.

According to China's 2019 "No 1 central document" - the first policy statement released by central authorities each year and seen as an indicator of agricultural policy priorities the government encourages domestic companies to enhance agricultural cooperation with partners related to the Belt and Road Initiative, to further boost the trade volume of agricultural products.

The growth of food consumption is a reflection of economic success and trade globalization, said Ding Lixin, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

"Food consumption is rising. The types of foods people eat are diversifying," he said. "Foods are becoming more sophisticated and they need to be more convenient, so the whole agricultural industry has dramatically transformed in China."

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