We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to browse this site or by choosing to close this message, you give consent for cookies to be used. For more details please read our Cookie Policy.

Is lobster China’s latest seafood craze?

Lobster. What once seen as food for the common fisherman is now one of the world’s foremost luxury foodstuffs - one China seemingly can’t get enough of. Chinese lobster imports have been soaring in recent years, making it the hottest seafood export product on the market today.

China’s big appetite for lobster

Little over a decade ago, lobster was hardly the success story it is today on China’s seafood markets. It barely featured in restaurants, or home cooking, at all. Flash forward to the present day and things are exceptionally different. 

How different? One only needs to take a look at import data to find out. In 2016, China imported lobster products, both frozen and live, worth $529 million.

So why exactly has China gained such an insatiable  desire for lobster? The answer, like so many developing nation’s changing palettes, lies in changing social shifts and more purchasing power. For one thing, China’s skyrocketing middle class with increasingly deeper pockets are turning towards more “everyday” luxuries to satiate its needs.

Stephanie Nadeau, owner of American firm the Lobster Company, located in one of the US’ key seafood exporting states, Maine, reinforces this trend. “It is kind of an affordable luxury,” Nadeau told the Associated Press. “One of my customers said our lobsters are one of the cheapest things in the live tanks.”

China’s middle class already outnumbers the individual populations of many developed nations, numbering 109 million members at present. By 2022, over half of China’s 1.35 billion population are predicted to join the middle class. Average annual wages are expected exceed $10,700 by the end of 2017, putting more cash into Chinese wallets and increasing the number of high-end seafood consumers throughout Asia’s biggest economy. 

Which lobster suppliers are scoring big in China?

The levels of China’s newfound obsession with lobster and crustaceans means keeping the nation supplied is very much a global affair. While some is sourced locally by domestic producers, in particular Chinese spiny lobster, the majority of China’s crustacean supplier comes from overseas.

New Zealand is very much top dog – or top crustacean – when it comes to this particular market. Lobster exports, specifically, rock lobster, is the nation’s most lucrative export species. Its 2016 China-bound exports totalled $219 million in 2016. New Zealand and China share a free trade agreement, meaning there are little export barriers and no import tariffs on New Zealand’s produce entering China, hence the large shipment volumes. 

North America is hot on New Zealand’s heels when it comes to expanding its China-bound seafood exports. “The Asian market is a key component,” said Patrick Kliher, Commissioner of the Main Department of Marine Resources. 

Indeed it is. US lobster exports enjoyed a record year in 2016. Exports hit a total of $108 million – nearly $20 million more than 2014’s previous sales record of $90.2 million. American lobster was almost unheard of in China. 2010’s exports were worth just $7.2 million. 

You can see the breath-taking pace at which the US’ lobster imports are increasing in China, making it an export market with huge potential. 

Canada matches its more southerly cousin by exporting huge volumes of lobster to China’s importers. 
“The Asian market has represented fantastic export growth for all sectors of the Canadian lobster industry with both live and processed Canadian lobster featured on menus and in retail/online platform sales throughout the region,” said Geoff Irvine of the Lobster Council of Canada. 

His words certainly ring true. Chinese demand for Canadian lobster has risen a monumental 400% since the start of the decade. 2016 saw the nation export $102 million worth of goods. In fact, prior to the US’ 2016 surge, Canadian produce were the second largest lobster supplier to Chinese seafood markets.

While the US and Canada may not enjoy free-trade agreements with China, demand for seafood is such that import tariffs have been dropped on a number of key products, including lobster. The previous 15% tariff for frozen and live product groupings has been dropped down to 5%, signalling increased demand from buyers as their fees are lowered.

Meet the right lobster buyers at World Seafood Shanghai (SIFSE)

Given the size and scope of China’s appetite for lobster, it is one of the world’s premier markets for exporters. And, there is only one place to meet the buyers, distributors and importers that matter: World Seafood Shanghai (SIFSE)

Running from 19-21 August at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre, World Seafood Shanghai (SIFSE) is a specialised fish and seafood exhibition aimed at meeting local demand and closing supply gaps. 31,441 visitors from over 39 countries attended last year’s show – all looking to secure supplies and boost their sales.

Grow your business leads in the world’s biggest seafood market at 2017’s event. Drop us a line today to learn more or to secure your space.


Related Events

Event26 Aug


26-28 August, 2022


Get in Touch

Want news like this in your inbox?