SEAFOODNEWS.COM [ABC] by Michelle Stanley – November  9, 2016

Record Chinese Demand for Western Australian Yabbies Triples Production

An increase in Chinese demand for Western Australian yabbies has seen production triple in just over a year, according to one of the state’s exporters.

Production manager of Cambinata Yabbies, Ian Nenke, said the company had previously focused its exports of the freshwater crayfish on markets in Hong Kong and Singapore.

“It’s just like [China] have recently discovered yabbies for the first time,” Mr. Nenke said.

“In Australia of course we know all about them, but as a new product the Chinese are always trying to source new types of seafood, and their demand is just running rampant.”

Mr. Nenke believes the “record demand” over the past year can be attributed to the growing Chinese middle-class with high disposable income.

“We’ve basically been able to triple our production,” he said.

Cambinata Yabbies, based in Kukerin, 300-kilometres south-east of Perth, currently exports roughly 500 kilograms of yabbies per week, sourced from across regional Western Australia.

And that quantity is set to increase further.

“We actually have a couple of new clients that are keen for at least half a tonne each,” Mr Nenke said.

However, demand is not only coming from the mainland.

“It’s not only the Chinese in China that are intrigued by our yabbies. It is also our local Chinese restaurants within Western Australia and over east.”

The price is right

Local farmers are also reaping the rewards, with farm-gate prices doubling in the same period.

Mr. Nenke said recently, prices had peaked as high as $19.50 per kilogram.

“To put it into context, if you look at only maybe two years ago, a 30-gram sized yabby was only about $8 a kilo, now we’re paying $15 a kilo.”

And there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

“While we’ve got other species of crayfish like our local western rock lobster fetching record prices at the moment, it helps us maintain a really solid price in the marketplace as well,” Mr. Nenke said.

According to Mr. Nenke, the increased demand had resulted in improved quality.

“Like the marron industry, people are going more intensively into it — so they’re feeding the yabbies regularly which is really important [to increase growth].

“Some farmers are looking into aeration as well, so looking forward into the future we could even see ponds being established.”

Mr. Nenke believes with the uncertainty of grain seasons, yabby production could be a good source of supplementary income for farmers.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing more [ponds] in the coming years.”