With Australian lobsters falling victim to China’s import ban, the Australian government has changed its law to allow local lobster suppliers to sell large quantities of their harvest to the local market between December and January, actively transforming the balance of payments in the short term to offset the impact of the Ban. Despite the ongoing uncertainty, Keith Pearce, former president of the Australian Fishermen’s Association, says market diversification will become a long-term strategy for Australian lobsters, which in turn will meet more demand from the US and Europe.
China accounts for 95 per cent of Australia’s A $750m lobster export market, with south and Western Australia the biggest exporters, affected by the import ban in November. Tom Cosentino, CHIEF executive of Southern Rocklobster Co., said Australia’s lobster shipments are experiencing customs delays because of increased Chinese import inspections. “While some of the cargo has been cleared, there are other risks of ongoing delays in implementing the new process,” he said. To mitigate this risk, most exporters have decided to stop shipping goods to China until they know more about the new process. “We are confident that Australia’s lobster industry has a global reputation for quality, reliability and sustainability and will follow the new process standards.”
But Senator Matt Canavan of the National Party noted that his Australian lobster’s detention at a Chinese airport reflected the importance of finding new markets. We cannot continue to rely on China as a big market. Market diversification has become particularly important. So far, the broader Australian economy has weathered the storm, returning to growth in the last quarter and emerging from the recession caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Australian companies are being forced to find new customers and markets to avoid deficits, job cuts or bankruptcy. Some barley growers have already shipped grain to the Middle East, winemakers are focusing on Japan, and lobster is moving to its home market.
To help affected lobster businesses, the Australian government recently changed legislation to allow lobster suppliers to sell large quantities of their catch in December and January. Customers lined up around Fremantle Port in response to the policy and boosted local consumption to support lobsters. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, lobster prices in Western Australia were as high as $80 per kg, usually averaging around $53 per kg. Before Christmas, the famous Western rock lobster, which is sold on the docks at $34 a kilogram, has been reduced by as much as 36%. “It’s enough to break even,” said Camarda, a third-generation Australian lobster fisherman. “We’re selling out almost every day and we’re taking pre-orders at the moment because people want lobster for Christmas. But I have to admit, it’s a crash course in setting up advance orders to make sure the fish can be sold back home.”
In the long run, Australian fishermen hope to get higher prices again in markets such as Japan, the U.S. and Europe, rather than relying solely on customers from China. Keith Pearce, former president of the Australian Professional Fishermen’s Association, said: “The Chinese are willing to pay more to get their goods and that’s pushing the whole market basically over to them. But the market needs to be diversified so we don’t have the problems we have today. “Despite all the uncertainty, I think things are positive and the lobster industry can continue to move forward.”
Since my grandfather in 1914, from Italy to Fred mantel (Fremantle) for fishing, kumar could adhere to want to use the family tradition industry going concern, he said: “my family has been engaged in this industry for many years, has been passed down through generations, but also the current situation is what we will encounter from time to time, also is needs to endure what compromise. My 21-year-old son has started fishing, and if he wants to continue down this path, and if he has an opportunity to develop a career in the future, I think that would be perfect. We have come a long way, so we will find a way to survive.”
Australian lobsters face delays in customs clearance in China. At the regular press conference of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on 2 November 2020, a journalist asked why only Australian lobsters faced this problem. In response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that China’s customs has carried out inspection and quarantine on imported seafood at import ports in accordance with the law and released them after they pass the inspection. This is not only the requirement of implementing relevant national laws and regulations, but also the need of ensuring food safety for Chinese consumers.
Wang pointed out that China always adheres to developing friendly cooperative relations with other countries on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. We always believe that a healthy and stable China-Australia relationship serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples. At the same time, mutual respect is the basis and guarantee for practical cooperation among countries. It is hoped that Australia will do more things conducive to china-Australia mutual trust and cooperation and in line with the spirit of china-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership so as to bring china-Australia relations back to the right track at an early date.