China now leading importer of US lobster

Published on
September 19, 2014

Exports of U.S. seafood — particularly lobster — to China are quickly growing as consumers’ buying power increases.

While Europe had previously been a leader in importing U.S. lobster, China became the leading foreign market consumer of U.S. lobster in 2013, purchasing more than USD 52.4 million (EUR 40.8 million) worth, up from around USD 24 million (EUR 18.7 million) in 2012, according to Food Export USA-Northeast. Lobster exports are also realizing major growth this year. During the first six months of 2014, China’s purchases of U.S. lobster spiked around 75 percent to reach nearly USD 30 million (EUR 23.4 million).

U.S. salmon and Alaskan cod are still the biggest seafood exports to China at USD 242 million (EUR 188.5 million) in sales in 2013 for salmon and USD 145.4 million (EUR 113.2 million) for Alaska cod.“More consumers, especially in major cities and second tier cities have a lot of disposable income, and imported foods — especially from America — are highly trusted as far as food safety goes,” Colleen Coyne, seafood program coordinator for Food Export USA-Northeast, told SeafoodSource.

The lift of lobster exports to China and other Asian countries comes at a time when there is less demand in general for U.S. seafood in Europe.

“Europe has been in economic turmoil in recent years, so we haven’t had a lot of growth in European market,” Coyne said. “That growth, effort and demand has shifted over the last couple of years and market diversification is so important for the industry.” In 2013, growth in sales of U.S. lobster to China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan accounted for 68 percent of foreign market lobster consumption.

To spur even more lobster sales in China, Food Export-Northeast is coordinating lobster promotions with Alibaba’s retail web site, Tmall, this fall. Rivaling Amazon in the U.S. Tmall’s “Single’s Day” (China’s version of Black Friday) produced total sales in excess of USD 5 billion during a single 24-hour period in 2013.

“There will be a promotion in November and we are looking at one in December. We support them with advertising and they are highlighting our seafood from the Northeast. Lobster will be one of the main products,” Coyne said.

Food Export USA’s China office is also in talks with other Chinese online retailers to hold limited-time U.S. seafood promotions.

Food Export-Northeast’s other promotional efforts focus on China’s second tier, “up and coming” cities. Throughout this year, it is conducting seminars and promotions featuring American lobster in Heilongjiang, Dalian, Fuzhou, and Chongqing. Also, the organization is providing market briefings, trained interpreters, pre-arranged meetings with qualified buyers, and cost-share funding assistance to U.S. lobster processors and other seafood companies attending China Fisheries & Seafood Expo, from 5-7 November in Qingdao, China.

Contributing Editor

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