Lobster exporters looking around the world for new markets to stem losses

Sales to China and Europe are down, so Maine dealers are hustling for new customers and finding them in Southeast Asia.

The U.S. lobster industry is on the hunt for new consumers, pitching live lobster to Southeast Asia’s growing middle class and gourmet lobster rolls to Berlin foodies.

American dealers are trying to offset market losses caused by unfavorable tariffs in China and Europe. Live lobster sales from the U.S. to China had been on pace to double in 2018 until China slapped a 25 percent tariff on lobster in July and the Maine-to-China lobster gusher sputtered out. Year-to-date exports to Europe are down by 34 percent, too, as a result of a trade deal that gives Canadian dealers preferential access to that market.

“We’ve seen turmoil in the overseas lobster market, but we’ve also seen resilience in this industry,” said Colleen Coyne of Food Export USA-Northeast, an agency that helps regional food exporters promote their products. “The U.S. lobster industry knows how to build markets. We obviously hope that China and Europe come back, but until they do, the industry is going to do what it does best: develop new products and new markets.”

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