Recently we have had a surge of online orders after being in lockdown for nearly 3 months, we shipped out globally 6 months worth of stock of our food range and equipment all in 10 days. I got in touch with our manufacturer to see how long it would take to whip up more food and they informed us it could be as late as August before it would be possible. So this got me thinking of the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) not only on my business but the fishkeeping hobby in general over the next year.
Before starting Castle Dawn Aquatics back in 2011, I was a contract manager for aquatic manufacturers in China who make parts and products for some of our favorite and biggest brands in the hobby.
I have stayed in contact with these factories over the years as we now use them ourselves to manufacturer our own products, and from talking to them recently I believe there is cause for concern.
We have returned to some sort of normality in China lately with the efforts put in place to halt the spread on the mainland. However, a lot of mass production is still on standby as the risk of 1000s of workers coming together in close quarters is very risky. Most of the factories will not start back to production till as late as November, and some factories that I know do a lot of white labeling for chain pet stores in the USA and UK don’t think they will survive the long road ahead.
The virus hitting over the Chinese New Year period complicates matters further. Most production orders from December to February are normally held back till after the holidays due to limited shipping windows and a shortage of factory staff. Any experienced importer will also know that pushing orders through production close to Chinese New Year usually results in products that do not meet the normal quality standards, and it is just not worth the hassle. So I would imagine a lot of aquatic brands are already starting to experience issues.
We could see in the coming months a shortage of aquarium equipment and possible price hikes as stocks run low, and I believe this will run well into 2021. The time production starts again until it lands on the shelves could take several months if the aquatic brands' factory in China even manages to survive the prolonged closure. This also applies to fish foods, so many aquatic brands manufacture their foods in China and package it in their own country or purchase their ingredients from here. It would probably shock you on how many big brands in our hobby operate in this manner not only with foods but also equipment. We call it knockdown production, a common manufacturing loophole that allows brands to state a product is made in their country of origin and not China if the products' final assembly or packaging is done in their country.
The virus may even affect the trade of ornamental fish in the short term as the spread reaches more parts of Asia over the coming months. At Castle Dawn Aquatics we have already experienced this issue with some of our farms in Thailand stopping trade until further notice as well as one of our Koi farms in Japan.
So is it all doom gloom? … Well in my opinion as an aquatic business owner and having a working background in aquatic manufacturing I think there are going to be some tough times ahead of us in the hobby. The silver lining is it may allow smaller homegrown brands to have their time in the sunshine, as aquarists look for alternatives to the bigger aquatic brands as they get harder to get or just too expensive due to the shortage. Even with the possibility of the ornamental fish trade getting hit hard, it will drive more aquatic/pet stores to source more local independent breeders which we are currently doing at Castle Dawn Aquatics, which fills the stores with healthy top-notch fish raised with devotion and care. During these difficult times caused by COVID-19, I think it’s important to come together as a community and help each other out where we can. Like buying from your local fish shop instead of a large chain store to help keep their doors open, or join a local fish club and share resources among each other. At Castle Dawn Aquatics we are offering free express shipping to our international customers as we know the urgency of items due to lockdowns. Even with our local regulars that we know have lost their jobs due to the virus, we have been offering free fish food and essentials like dechlorinator to see them through during these hard times. Little acts like this can help keep our wonderful hobby ticking over till things improve, and they will.
This article is my own opinion based on my experiences, research, and common knowledge. I am not a scientist or alike. The article is not intended to upset, trigger or question any person's experiences or thoughts on the subject.