Australia sending 500 tons of rock lobster to China in the next two months

In the next two months, 500 tons of Australian rock lobster will be exported to China courtesy of an agreement forged between the Australian Government and Western Australia’s Geraldton Fisherman’s Co-operative (GFC).

A statement jointly released by Australian Senator Simon Birmingham, the minister for trade, tourism, and investment and deputy leader of the government in the Senate, Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonathon Duniam, and Minister for Defense Industry and Federal Member for Durack Melissa Price, said the agreement represents a major push for Western Australia’s rock lobster industry, which has seen its exports halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This will be a lifeline for the industry. These flights will help get [the state]’s rock lobster industry back-on-track,” according to Birmingham. “We recognize the current crisis is placing immense pressure on Western Australia’s seafood exporters, many of whom felt the earliest impacts when overseas demand began to dry up.”

GFC CEO Matt Rutter said in a statement sent to SeafoodSource that the industry is delighted with how the federal government has quickly responded to discussions. He added the rock lobster industry is the largest fishery in Western Australia.

With the support of the government, the first batch of about 20 tons of Western Australia rock lobsters was sent to China on 15 April. The new agreement will see a total of 500 tons of lobster carried to China on 18 flights.

Due to travel bans, passenger flights carrying cargo have stopped flying, making it harder for exporters due to freight rates increasing. Under the new arrangement, the federal government will finance the cost of freight for exporters of premium agri-food products, such as rock lobster.

Rutter said the government-backed freighter flights over the coming months will be “critical for Australia in maintaining its reputation for providing premium, clean, green products across the globe.”

The agreement will also mean much-needed employment for many, Rutter said, and ensures GFC can continue to support its members, staff, and customers by supplying to the Chinese market.

Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonno Duniam said the boost was made possible via the AUD 110 million (USD 67 million, EUR 61 million) International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM).

“Like so many in the fisheries industry, the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative was up against the wall, when orders from China stopped almost overnight in January,” Duniam said. “Without this support, the co-operative was faced with standing-down hundreds of highly-skilled fishers, crew, and staff. Now, this critical regional employer and icon of the West can carry-on supporting local jobs and doing the fishing industry proud.”

Price said assistance “will keep many family businesses in Durack afloat and many local people employed in a much-valued West Coast industry.”

Rutter said that the industry has been feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic since mid-January and, because China has been its main market, demand has dampened due to travel restrictions.

As China recovers from the pandemic, demand for Western Australian rock lobster has been slowly picking up, Rutter said the challenge during this pandemic has been the logistics of getting product to offshore markets.

“This support from the federal government will be instrumental in keeping valuable export dollars flowing through our economy and keeping Australian's employed,” he said.

The Australian government rolled out an AUD 1 billion (USD 606 million, EUR 557 million) relief and recovery fund to support regions, communities, and industry sectors that have been affected by COVID-19 earlier this year.

Photo courtesy of GFC/Matt Rutter 


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