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SEAFOODNEWS.COM [West Australian] Brad Thompson – January 8, 2016 –

Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative is about to change the face of WA’s rock lobster industry by opening its own supply chain into China.

GFC will create history by becoming the first Australian business to hold and own live seafood on Chinese soil.

It is preparing for the official opening of its warehouse and holding facility at Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou next week.

It will be supplied from 80-tonne capacity saltwater storage tanks being built about 10km from the Perth International Airport in Welshpool.

The lobster will go via air freight from the $20 million Perth facilities to the GFC tanks in Guangzhou.

The investment creates a strategic entry point for WA rock lobster in China after the recent free trade agreement, which will see import tariffs cut from 15 per cent to zero over the next four years.

It also adds certainty to a trade worth hundred of millions of dollars a year to a WA economy that has relied heavily on unofficial supply chains.

GFC, owned and operated by its fishermen members, has grown to become the biggest exporter of rock lobsters in the world since it was set up in 1950.

It booked a record turnover of $400 million last year.

It exports about 4000t a year and is responsible for supplying more than 65 per cent of the rock lobster caught off the WA coast.

The new supply chain creates a working partnership between GFC, China’s second busiest airport and its biggest airline China Southern.

Fisheries Minister Ken Baston met Chinese consul-general Huang Qinguo and quarantine and airline officials as details of the supply chain were finalised.

“It is great to see our WA exporters investing in China,” Mr Baston said.

“This sort of business relationship is beneficial for both countries.”

Mr Baston said the rock lobster industry was going from strength to strength under the sustainable quota system introduced by the State Government.

The GFC investment is expected to result in the next big increase in profitability in the already booming industry.

It is estimated the supply chain changes and pending tariffs cuts could increase returns to co-operative members by more than 20 per cent.

Control of an official supply chain also creates the potential for GFC to use its Brolos brand or another name identifying WA rock lobster in the Chinese market.

There should also be a big reduction in mortality rates in the live trade as a result of the direct route from Perth to Guangzhou.

Although it is rarely discussed publicly by Government or industry, a lot of the rock lobster exported from WA finds its way into China through what is known as the grey trade.

WA’s rock lobster exports to Vietnam — the gateway for much of the grey trade — have topped $300 million a year in recent times.

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