Lobster exports to China rise

Updated: 2015-01-29 06:19

By XIAO LIXIN in Beijing(China Daily Canada)

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The demand for Canadian lobsters from Chinese consumers has witnessed a rapid surge in recent years and especially now as the Chinese New Year approaches less than a month away.

Canadian lobster is in high demand the world over by professional caterers seeking flavor, consistency and value. At present, Canada provides more than half of the world's supply of both live and processed hard-shell Atlantic lobster and has long been over-dependent on export to its neighbor to the south, as about three out of four Canadian lobsters are exported to the US.

Recent years have seen a new trend and increase in exports to China, which has grown into its second-largest lobster export destination.

According to the latest figures from the Lobster Council of Canada, compared to only $6.7 million in 2010, Canada exported live lobsters worth $36.5 million to China in 2013, exceeding exports to the US for the first time ever.

During the first 11 months of 2014, the amount reached $73 million, a year-on-year growth of 136 percent.

Since China's Spring Festival is in February this year, now is only a prelude to the busiest lobster purchasing season, said Stewart Lamont, manager of Tangier Lobster, a Canadian exporter.

Lobster meat is low in fat and carbohydrates, high in protein and considered a good choice for a healthy diet. Traveling the long journey live from Canada to China, the delicacy known for its freshness has received a warm welcome in China, despite its steep price.

The Canadian crustaceans have even become a status symbol of wealth for the Chinese, said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada. "With growing public concerns over seafood safety due to water pollution, imported seafood has increasingly been preferred by the Chinese," he said.

The booming e-commerce market in China has also helped boost sales of imported lobsters, as Chinese online shoppers can buy fresh seafood thousands of miles away with a click of a mouse. In 2013, as many as 20,000 Canadian lobsters were sold on Taobao, China's leading online shopping platform, according to its founder Jack Ma.

Despite the sharp increase in lobsters sold in Chinese and Asian markets, the price of lobsters sold by Canadian fishermen at the wharf remains almost the same as it was during the same period last year — about $11.55 per kilo. However, the greater demand for Canadian lobster in Asian markets is still good news for local lobstermen and exporters.

Currently, the Lobster Council of Canada is working on rebranding Canadian lobsters for consumers to differentiate between lobsters from Canada and the US, Irvine said. Many Canadian lobsters exported to the US are re-exported to China and other Asian countries labeled Boston or Maine lobster, he said.