US exports to lobster-loving China go off cliff amid tariffs

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — United States (US) lobster exports to China have fallen off a cliff this year as new retaliatory tariffs shift the seafood business farther north.

China, a huge and growing customer for lobster, placed heavy tariffs on US lobsters — and many other food products — in July 2018 amid rising trade hostilities between the Chinese and the Trump administration.

Meanwhile, business is booming in Canada, where cargo planes are coming to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick, to handle a growing bump in exports. Canadian fishermen catch the same species of lobster as American lobstermen, who are based mostly in Maine.

The loss of business has brought layoffs to some Maine businesses, such as The Lobster Co, of Arundel, where owner Stephanie Nadeau has laid off half the 14 people she once had working in wholesale.

“They picked winners, and they picked losers, and they picked me a loser,” Nadeau said. “There is no market that’s going to replace China.”

America has exported less than 2.2 million pounds of lobster to China this year through June, according to data from the US federal government.

The country exported nearly 12 million pounds during that same period last year. That’s a more than 80 per cent drop.