Food & Beverage

Chinese businesses cash in on Denmark’s oyster crisis

Celine Ge | South China Morning Post

Every crisis is an opportunity. And for Chinese businesses, the current one of stubborn oyster intruders overrunning parts of the coast of Denmark is spelling fortune and feasts.

With an explosive spread of Pacific oysters from Asia choking up the Danish shoreline and harming local species, Chinese companies have come up with a quick fix - they will import the unwelcomed shellfish and send armies of tourists to Denmark, so that the Chinese foodies will guzzle them up with crushed garlic and chilli sauce.

Just a week ago, the Danish Embassy in China took its alien mollusk crisis to the mainland's vibrant social media, playfully inviting people to "come and eat" these shellfish invaders.

The call on Weibo was met with a flood of 15,000 comments from Chinese netizens, who volunteered to "eat them to extinction".

Chinese companies are interested in oysters choking up the Danish shoreline that have ignited social media interest in China.
Thaddaeus McAdams | Getty Images

The Chinese were not joking and true to form, some of the country's biggest companies, particularly e-commerce giants, went knocking on the embassy's door to strike up a deal.

"We have agreed on further collaboration to bring Denmark's oysters to China,"an Alibaba spokesperson said in a statement.

That came after a representative of Alibaba's online shopping site Tmall visited Danish diplomats in Beijing on Friday to discuss how to combat "the plague of the exotic mollusks".

In addition, UTour, a Chinese travel agency has organised a "special gourmet tour" for Chinese citizens willing to travel halfway around the world to savour the "oyster feast" in small Danish towns badly hit by the mollusk invasion.

"Let's go. Let's help the Danes quash these oysters invaders!" the Beijing tour operator said in a Weibo post.

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"We have got some very serious requests for cooperation from Chinese businesses, among them food importers and e-commerce platforms," the public diplomacy and media section of the Danish Embassy in Beijing said in an email to the South China Morning Post. "And we have since considered bringing (exporting) Danish oysters to China."

But the embassy stressed that "there are some procedures needing to go through, for example, to get to China's food safety and quarantine standards."

There are an estimated 500 tonnes of Pacific Oysters choking many parts of the Nordic country's coast, endangering native oysters called Limfjord, and blocking swimmers' access to the sea. Unfortunately, humans are the only predators of these intruders as they have such stubborn shells that no bird can open them.

Danish authorities and scientists have long called on locals to hunt them to keep their population under control, but few were incentivised.

Aided by Chinese companies, an oyster resistance campaign is in full force in China's cyberspace, mobilising tens of thousands of netizens.

On Sunday, the embassy teamed up with Tmall to hold a live broadcast briefing Chinese internet users on various ways to scarf down an oyster.

In the West, pairing glistening oysters with a squeeze of lemon or splash of mignonette or champagne will make an appetising treat, but most Chinese would grill them, covering them with mashed garlic and chilli, over hot charcoal. That could also boost demand for crushed garlic and chilli sauce as well, some internet users joked.

It is not the first time that Chinese businesses and seafood ravenous consumers have helped Western countries in devouring their invasive species.

In 2015, Chinese consumers snapped up online 8,000 kilograms of Asian carps from America's Mississippi River, where the fish had taken over the waterway and killed off sensitive species, from Tmall.

China, with its 1.4 billion population, consumed over 4.57 million tonnes of oysters in 2015, according to consultancy Zhiyan, and it also breeds about 80 per cent of farmed oysters worldwide.

"We knew food-related posts would attract some attention from Internet users, but we did not foresee this frenzy at all...Of course, we welcome them to Denmark to explore by themselves what this country has the best to offer,"the media section of the Danish embassy said.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

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