August 16, 2017
Strong demand for lobster in China has pushed prices of the product up, according to Globefish, the analytical and informational arm on world fish trade of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
It said Canada is shipping more to China than in previous years, adding that one exporter chartered a Boeing 747 to fly lobsters directly from Halifax to China to meet the significant demand last Chinese New Year. Product shipped to China consists mainly of live lobster, which fetches a premium price.
According to Globefish in its market situational report for lobster covering year 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, released earlier this month, New Zealand rock lobster is enjoying tremendous popularity in China as imports of this product have increased dramatically over the past decade, and so has the price. In 2001, China accounted for 70% of New Zealand's lobster exports. In 2016, the country took nearly all lobster exports (99%).
FOB prices have increased by 285% from 2004 to 2016 in US dollar terms. The main driving force behind this development is the growing buying power of the Chinese middle class, Globefish said.
North American landings
Though official figures are not yet available for 2016, Globefish estimated that North American lobster landings decreased 6% to just 143,000 tonnes (from 152,200 tonnes in 2015), of which 76,000 tonnes (-12%) were landed in Canada.
The decline in 2016, after having had continuous growth since 2007, is expected to continue this year. In the USA, the lobster resource off the southern New England region is under pressure as new fishing restrictions aimed at restoring the declining resource was set to be introduced last May.
South Africa's west coast rock lobster was also threatened by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, overfishing and inadequate fisheries management measures. Various organisations including the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association have called for a temporary stop, or at least a major reduction, in the fishery.
Global lobster imports in 2016 increased only slightly (+0.8%) compared with 2015, totalling 162,300 tonnes. The largest importers were the US (51,200 tonnes), the EU (33,400 tonnes), Canada (31,300 tonnes) and China (19,700 tonnes).
China's growing imports
The US registered a slight decline in import volumes (-6%), while China continued its trend of growing imports, with a rise of 23.9%.
Canada's lobster exports declined slightly (-1.6%) to 73,100 tonnes. The main markets for Canada were the US, accounting for over 59.4% of the total, followed by China (11.2% of total) and South Korea (4.2%).
US lobster exports, on the other hand, increased 7.4% to 55,500 tonnes. Main markets for US lobsters were Canada (58% of total), China (9.7% of total) and Italy (6.7% of total). As much as 93% of US lobster exports were fresh or live lobsters.