China was so hungry for Maine lobster last summer that Stephanie Nadeau, a live lobster dealer from Arundel, was selling $100,000 of lobster to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai on a good day. She was living and breathing the China lobster market, which after seven years of 1 a.m. sales calls and repeated trips to the mainland had grown to account for a third of her annual sales.
The lobster pipeline from Maine to China shut down on July 5, however, when China hit U.S. lobsters with a 25 percent import tax in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on imported Chinese goods. Since then, Nadeau’s business, The Lobster Co., has not sold a lobster to China, despite daily phone calls and a trip to the Pearl River Delta to visit her Chinese customers last week.
Nadeau estimates that the tariffs will cost The Lobster Co. about $10 million in 2018 sales. It is still selling to other places in Asia, including Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, but without China, Nadeau has had to lay off two people, cutting her total employee count down to 20, and reduce the number of times she buys lobster from five times a week to two.