World

China Can’t Stop Gobbling Up America’s Lobster

The U.S. is exporting record amounts of lobster to China as the industry continues to expand worldwide.

The American lobster industry is a success story for agricultural exports. Lobster exports to China were practically unheard of before 2010, when the value of exports exploded 320 percent to $7.4 million, and last year China bought $108 million worth of lobster.

“We’ve opened new markets in Asia, which is booming,” Dave Cousens, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, told The Associated Press. “Everything is clicking now.”

China took in more than 14 million pounds of American lobster in 2016, breaking the previous record of 13.1 million pounds in 2015.

Exports to China don’t appear to be slowing down this year. The U.S. exported $14.5 million worth of lobster to China in January alone of this year, 67 percent higher compared to January 2016, according to the most recent available trade data.

American lobstermen caught a record 130 million pounds of lobster last year, and demand for the red crustacean around the globe seems to be growing. The U.S. exported a total of nearly $750 million worth of lobster to other countries in 2016, up from $511 million in 2012.

One reason for the increase could be China’s growing middle class. Lobsters are less expensive than other seafood options in the live tanks, according to Stephanie Nadeau, owner of The Lobster Company in Maine, which has a large export business.

“It’s kind of an affordable luxury,” Nadeau told the AP. “One of my customers said our lobsters are one of the cheapest things in the live tanks.”

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