HALIFAX—Canadian lobster exports to Asia are growing but one lobster fisherman says that hasn’t had much impact on Maritime shore prices.
Bernie Berry of the Coldwater Lobster Association said prices are not yet reflecting the increased Asian demand.
“We’re not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth, it’s just we were expecting maybe a little bit more,” said Berry, whose organization represents fisherman in southwestern Nova Scotia.
Berry said prices in his area this year are about 10 cents higher on average than the year before. The bigger advantage of the Asian markets is that it is easier to unload catches, he said.
“Before the market in China really took off … we were landing so many lobsters some of the times things would get backlogged,” he said.
“But now I think there’s enough market, it’s big enough and still getting bigger, that it just absorbs what we can catch even though we’re at record levels.”
Exports of live Canadian lobsters to Asia have increased by more than 400 per cent over the past five years, Halifax Stanfield International Airport recently said in a news release.
The airport said during the holiday season last year, Korean Air Cargo made weekly flights to South Korea with each one carrying 40 to 50 tonnes of lobster, with the largest shipment recorded at 100 tonnes.
While China remains the biggest Asian market for Canada’s lobster, South Korea is becoming increasingly important, said Geoff Irvine of the Lobster Council of Canada.
Canadian exports of live lobster to South Korea doubled in value between 2011 and 2013, the federal government says.
On Jan. 1, the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement came into effect, which Irvine said should further increase Canada’s share of the Korean market.
“The key thing about South Korea is that the Americans have had a free trade agreement for several years and we haven’t,” said Irvine.
Irvine said the increased demand in Asia can be attributed in part to rising middle classes in the region.
The Lobster Council of Canada recently announced a branding plan for lobster exports, which Irvine said will include Asian markets as part of its focus.
The marketing plan depends on a proposed levy in which lobster fishermen, buyers and processors across the Maritimes would pay one cent per pound of lobster caught to cover the cost of promotional initiatives.
Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell has said he hopes the levy can be in place by the fall. However, it has gotten resistance from some fishermen and buyers in the province.
Berry said while he understands the reluctance towards the levy, he believes marketing will be key to bringing up prices.
“As much as China’s expanded over the past four, five or six years, I think it could be so much bigger and I guess it’s how we get into that market and try to market our product that we’re going to get a better price.”