March 31, 2020

Chinese demand for seafood is coming back and Cairns Airport is at the forefront of the industry’s recovery.

Airport CEO Norris Carter said there was “pent up demand” for banquets. “Now that China has started to come out of the coronavirus crisis, we’re seeing demand for seafood coming back,” he said.

“I understand the fishing fleet is out there catching lobster and coral trout again and they’re going up by freight to Hong Kong.

“So that’s pretty exciting.

“The airport is absolutely a critical piece of infrastructure and an important connection because the people, who are going to be flying these days, are the essential people or the people needing medical treatment.

“And of course, we’re the vital link connecting the Cape and Torres Strait with the rest of Australia.

Qantas went out last Friday with 18 tonnes of freight on it.” East Star Exports CEO Barry Dunn said he had never stopped exporting live coral trout, but there had been an improvement on price.

“We have been sending the whole time at a much reduced volume and a very low price,” he said.

“There has been a modest improvement; prices are still pretty low but it’s an improvement.

“There are still any number of things that could make it stop. Airfreight is still an issue for us. Qantas flies freight once a week. If that stops flying, there aren’t too many plan Bs.” Mr Dunn said his company had also opened a new sales channel in China. “We have new sales channels with Chinese supermarkets – at least we can keep some activity going, we are hopeful it will hold us in good stead,” he said.

“The restaurants are the high end customers and they are not back to normal by any means.

“There are reasonable prospects over the next two to three weeks. The risk is that we will be shut down or airfreight will be hellishly expensive.“All our staff are working and we are optimistic about the future.”