Some Maine lobster dealers who have seen sales to China shoot up over the last decade are now suddenly shut out.
Late last week, China more than doubled tariffs on lobster from U.S. sources as part of the emerging trade war between the two countries. But the lobster industry as a whole, and lobstermen in particular, are trying to take it all in stride.
Michael Marceau watches workers pack lobster on the chilly floor of his Arundel business, The Lobster Co. Until last week, up to 15,000 pounds of live lobster were run through these water tanks, weighed and put in shipping containers every day, bound for Chinese tables.
“We were gearing up for a really big year,” Marceau says.
Sales of Maine-harvested lobster to China so far this year were tripling over the same period last year, and a renovation to increase the plant’s holding capacity had been under way.
“See that uncompleted section of pipe? Well with that, when it was all done, we’d of been up to a 100,000. But we don’t have to finish that now,” he says.
That’s because China’s tariff on live lobster now stands at 40 percent, and at 35 percent on processed lobster. It’s a major price barrier for sales to Chinese buyers, who can get the same species from Canadian harvesters with only a 7 percent tariff.