Frozen Canadian Lobster Sales Booming to China, as Category Takes Off


 China is becoming a key market for frozen whole cook Canadian lobster.
Everyone knows the story of the rapid development of the live north American lobster market in China.
Last year, China imported more North American Homarus lobster than spiny or rock lobster for the first time ever, according to official Chinese customs data.
However, this data underplayed the importance of frozen lobster.
Just like Shrimp from Ecuador that enters China through Vietnam, there is now a huge transshipment of lobster through Vietnam as well.
When you add these to the customs figures, the picture of the frozen whole cooked market that emerges is astounding.  The live lobster volume from the US and Canada increased around 55% to 60% last year.  But frozen lobster, mostly whole cooks, increased about three times as much.
In 2014, frozen lobster shipments to China, mostly whole cooks, grew 170% over the prior year.  They now account for 30% of the total volume of lobsters shipped to China from both the US and Canada.  In 2013 they accounted for only 18%.
(Source:  GTIS World Trade Atlas – US and Canadian Shipments to China, Vietnam, Hong Kong)
It is obvious that as lobster becomes a more widespread middleclass seafood item in China, that the price and shippability of whole cooks is becoming a key component of the market.
This dynamic is going to help the Canadian lobster processing industry this year, because it will provide a substantial alternative market to Europe, which has traditionally bought popsicle lobster, but which cannot buy that much this season.
The other benefit is that labor shortages are going to be a universal problem in the lobster processing industry this spring. On a recent trip to New Brunswick, concern over availability of labor for lobster processing was the number one issue for many processors.
When labor is short, it is easier to produce lower value whole cooks than high value tails.
The combination of a strong market for whole cooks in China and lack of labor to produce tails, means that tail prices may not decline very much this year as they may actually become a smaller percentage of total maritime production.
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton March 30, 2015