New Brunswick’s lobster industry is drawing closer to China as the apetite for the premium Canadian seafood grows in that country.

Newly released figures show the volume of Atlantic Canada’s lobster sold to China jumped 50 per cent in 2018, to 12 million kilograms.

And businesses with ties to Asian markets have been investing in Atlantic Canada.

Nathan Song runs Bay Shore Lobster and Seafood in Back Bay, a coastal New Brunswick community about 80 kilometres west of Saint John. The company is a division of Nova Scotia’s Hiyou Global Inc.

Song estimated he gets 15 to 20 calls a day from buyers in Asia looking for product. The company just spent $1.6 million to double the capacity of the plant, which will operate year-round.

He doesn’t process lobster because customers in China, he said, want live Canadian lobsters.

“We have a very good name in the Chinese market,” said Song. “Lobster is very popular in China now. Everyone [is] looking to jump in the business.”

Trade war help

Canadian lobster exports are also getting a major boost from a 25 per cent tariff imposed on imports of U.S. lobster last July by the government of China.

Overall, the value of sales of live lobster to China has climbed from $27 million in 2011 to $220 million over the first 11 months of 2018.

Song’s 20 local employees can now package 200,000 pounds of lobster annually — 90 per cent of which is destined for China.

Song said Canadian lobsters have a great reputation in there which can only mean good things in future for the industry here.

The U.S. remains the number one market for Canadian Lobster, with 22 million kilograms in sales in the first 11 months of last year.