Salmon prices look low on Alibaba

Aslak Berge

Atlantic salmon prices are pretty low on the Chinese online retailer

On Tuesday, the shares of world’s largest mixed retailer, US-based Walmart, fell by over 10 percent on its Wall Street exchange after reporting fourth-quarter earnings. The main reason for the fall — the deepest since the mid-1970’s — was that their e-commerce investment was shown to be more burdensome than expected. Competition with consummate e-commerce giants, it turned out, was using up resources.

With shopping habits changing, the growth of home-delivered food ordered online — including a full week of groceries — show that consumers are choosing new solutions. When you’re delivered fresh newspapers every morning, why not fresh bread or fresh salmon cutlets?

Giant players

In international markets, not least in the US and China, internet trade, including food, has come a long way. First in line —  those at the forefront of e-commerce in foodstuffs — are the giant players Alibaba and Amazon. Both now offer salmon sales online.

An “Atlantic salmon” search on Alibaba’s e-shopping platform yields 1,071 products. The fish is mostly sold smoked or frozen, largely in bulk, and presented with a rich assortment. There’s everything from vanilla-marinated and smoked filets to salmon heads.

The prices of these are not especially high.

Skinned and boned portions delivered to the east-Chinese town of Dalian (population 1 million) are offered for USD 5,500 to 6,500 dollars a tonne, or an equivalent per-kilogram price of EUR 4.47 EUR to EUR 5.28. Here, the minimum order is 10 tonnes, or half a standard shipping container.

That’s somewhat removed from the current market price for fresh salmon (seen by the fish farmer), even if you don’t factor in fillet yield, the exporter’s fee, customs, freight and processing costs. But, that’s not the cheapest salmon on the Alibaba platform.

Read Alibaba now trading tonnes of salmon
Read B.C. salmon farmers not rushing to Alibaba

Frozen, vacuum-packed portions (with skin), together with gutted whole fish — funnily enough originating in Shangdong, China — are offered for delivery in Quingdao Harbour for USD 1,000 to USD 4,000 dollars a tonne. Minimum orders are eight tonnes. That means a price in the ephemeral range of EUR 0.81 to EUR 3.25 per kilo.

A number of suppliers also sell a tonne of salmon at under USD 1,000.

Cheapest of all is the frozen salmon for USD 200 per tonne, or EUR 0.16 per kilo. The minimum order is five tonnes delivered “at any port”. The salmon is “Brazilian” and is sold by Oyewale Akinpelumi in Turkey.

Alibaba 2018
Alibaba’s salmon market place in the Year 2018 shows some of the signs of being unregulated. SalmonBusiness failed to secure comment from Alibaba about this, although we tried.

Alibaba’s main U.S. competitor, Amazon, has another way of trading in salmon. Their target market is more described as finicky with buying power. In the Grocery & Gourmet Foods section, “Atlantic salmon” gets just five “hits”.

Read Walmart, Rakuten prepare Japanese online ordering

Amazon offers instead fresh Chilean-made, vacuum-packed Atlantic salmon for USD 26 to USD 49 dollars a pound, including freight. That indicates a per-kilo price of EUR 46.39 to EUR 87.41. Here, the minimum orders are between four and five pounds (2 to 2.5 kg). Delivery times for both fresh and smoked salmon products are between two and five days for U.S. online customers.

Not yet offering Atlantic salmon is the world’s third-largest e-commerce giant, Ebay.


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