PORTLAND, MAINE (AP) – China is showing no signs of slowing its demand for American lobster this year despite disruption to the supply chain and international trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Chinese demand for the crustaceans grew dramatically during the 2010s in part because of the expansion of the country’s middle class.
The lobsters are especially sought after in winter because they are a popular delicacy on Chinese New Year, which is February 1 this year.
American exporters sent more than 13.2 million pounds of lobster to China during the first 11 months of 2021. That was about six per cent more than the same time period the previous year.
The pandemic has made the already difficult task of sending live seafood across the globe more challenging, but Maine lobster exporters are gearing up for a decent Chinese New Year, said Bill Bruns.
The operations manager at The Lobster Co in Arundel said shipments are complicated by the fact the company can’t send lobsters to Beijing because of COVID-19 restrictions – but they are able to send to other airports, such as Shenzhen.
China buys lobsters from the United States (US) – where the industry is based mostly in Maine – and Canada, where the industry is situated in the Atlantic provinces. Exports from Canada were up even more than the US the first 11 months of 2021 compared to 2020, said industry analyst John Sackton.
Signs point to a strong season for the industry, Sackton said.
Consumption of seafood could also get a boost from the Beijing Winter Olympics, which are set to start a few days after Chinese New Year, he said.