China lobster orders dry up, despite Lunar New Year celebrations

Lunar New Year is supposed to be the busiest time of the year for Tom Adams, whose company, Maine Coast, used to sell millions of pounds of lobster to China.

But the U.S.-China trade war has shut Maine Coast out of that market.

His old Chinese customers now buy their lobster from Canada, which can sell them a hard-shell version without the 25 percent import tariff. On a snowy Wednesday morning, on what should have been his busiest shipping day of the year, Adams waved at stacks of boxed lobsters waiting to be loaded on to cargo trucks at his newly expanded York facility and sighs.

“Last year, all of this and more would’ve been headed to China,” Adams said. “But now, we’re lucky if any of them are.”

Maine lobster dealers are struggling to manage the fallout from the U.S.-China trade war. Before the tariff, China was the second biggest importer of U.S. lobster, buying $128.5 million worth of it in 2017. The U.S. was on track to double its lobster sales to China before the tariff initiated by President Trump hit in July, according to trade data. Since then, U.S. lobster exports have all but dried up.

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