Workers sort lobsters by size at The Lobster Co. in Arundel, Maine, the United States, Jan. 24, 2022. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)
U.S. lobster exporters are busy preparing for Chinese New Year, a time for grand banquets and abundant seafood consumption.
The week-long holiday, commonly known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is typically one of the busiest times for the American lobster industry.
Appetite for shellfish remains strong in China this year, despite pandemic-related transportation and logistics challenges, according to members of the U.S. lobster industry.
“I have orders every day. Whether I can get them all on planes every day becomes a question,” Bill Bruns, chief operating officer at The Lobster Co., told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Located in Arundel, in the US state of Maine, The Lobster Co. has been selling fresh seafood since 1994 and is one of the first in America to sell lobsters to China. Maine, the most northeastern state in the United States, typically accounts for 80-85% of all lobster sales in the United States.
“I’ve sold to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong,” said Stephanie Nadeau, owner of The Lobster Co., who launched her Chinese business in 2009 and sold about 3 million pounds of lobster to the Asian giant. Last year.
“The big lobsters, the selected lobsters, are the most expensive lobsters, and they tend to go to Beijing or Guangzhou. In Shanghai, they buy a quarter and a half. And in Hong Kong, they mostly buy the smaller size . ” said Nadeau.
Nadeau said Chinese New Year affairs can last for a few weeks, and lobster consumption there often remains strong even after the holidays.
“It’s like it doesn’t stop. It’s not like a vacation in the United States, like it’s Christmas and Christmas is over,” she said, adding that her company had shipped about 25,000 books a week to China in January.
“That’s the space I can get on the plane,” Nadeau said, noting that international trade has been complicated by the pandemic.
Members of the U.S. lobster industry said business with China is crucial for the U.S. seafood industry, hoping the international transportation difficulties caused by COVID-19 could be resolved soon.
The Chinese market and Asian customers are “vital to us,” Virginia Olsen, executive liaison for the Maine Lobstering Union, a lobster-owned cooperative, told Xinhua.
“We’ve been preparing for Lunar New Year since our Christmas break…We ship more during Lunar New Year than we do during Christmas, so we’ve been really busy preparing,” she said.
Olsen said U.S. lobster exports to China have “increased exponentially” over the past decade, adding “we hope this year will be another success.”
Bill Coppersmith, a union member who has worked in the industry for 42 years, said he believed many of the lobsters he caught went to Chinese plates.
“I think China values our product very much,” Coppersmith said. “The more demand they have for the product, the better it is for anglers.”
As the pandemic has impacted U.S. lobster exports since it first emerged about two years ago, the industry’s trade pipeline between the U.S. and China is making a comeback.
International trade data showed that in the first 11 months of 2021, US exporters sent more than 13.2 million pounds of lobster to China, about 6% more than the same period the last year.
“In the next few years, I suspect we’ll be selling more and more to China. I just hope we can catch enough to keep everyone happy,” Coppersmith said, noting that steady trade with the China is mutually beneficial and win-win.
“It’s good that we can export something to them, because we get so much from China,” he said.
Olsen said the Chinese market has great potential. “We’re really looking forward to building those relationships.”