Tariffs on exports to China continue to hobble Maine lobster dealers

American lobster exports to China continue to plummet as the industry struggles with stiff trade barriers activated in July on its second-largest export market.

About 85 percent of the lobster exported from the U.S. originates from Maine waters, but some is shipped from other states and not reflected in Maine’s total exports. Still, Maine and Massachusetts together accounted for about two-thirds of all U.S. live lobster exports to China last year. Since July, that market has virtually evaporated.

The two states combined to export about $1.4 million worth of lobster to China in August, an 83 percent drop from June sales.

“I’m probably one of the heaviest shippers and had developed my China business more than other companies in Maine,” said Tom Adams, founder and CEO of Maine Coast Co., a live lobster wholesaler in York.

Since the tariffs went into effect, Adams has lost 90 percent of his Chinese orders. Last year, China accounted for 22 percent of his business.

“Every year since 2012 it has grown, it was growing this year before the tariffs. It is almost gone at this point,” he said.

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