Chinese corruption crackdown hits New Zealand paua industry

Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014

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New Zealand paua has gone on the banned list for high-flying Chinese tycoons anxious to avoid being caught up in corruption allegations.

Shark fins and bird nest soups are also falling into disfavour after Beijing launched an austerity drive against lavish banquets.

While the news has been good for sharks - the demand for fins has plummeted - New Zealand's biggest paua processor is suffering.

In its latest annual report, Aotearoa Fishing Ltd (AFL) said it had invested widely, from Bream Bay to Palmerston North, to farm and process paua.

Commenting on China, it said the fresh and frozen fish markets remained steady, with the pricing for main fish species remaining firm, and lobster sales remained robust despite Chinese austerity measures.

"It was, however, a very different story for our paua products, where sales have been affected by Chinese austerity measures," it said.

With the Chinese not eating paua, exporters were now pushing them into other Asian markets including Singapore and Hong Kong.

"Prices fell in response to increased supply."

AFL's prepared foods division claims to be the pioneer in processing New Zealand paua, the world's only black abalone.

Illegally caught paua is used as illicit currency in the criminal drug trade.

China's anti-corruption measures ban cigarettes and expensive liquor as well as classic Chinese delicacies like mooncakes, shark fins and birds' nests from official banquets.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has also ordered that in densely populated areas with scarce arable land, the bodies of party members and officials must be cremated rather than buried and headstones must be smaller. 

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