Maine dealers say China is further inflating prices on U.S. lobster as part of tariff war

Maine lobster dealers say China is improperly inflating the market price of lobster to increase its punitive tariffs on U.S. live lobster imports.

Chinese customs officials have been calculating the 25 percent tariff on U.S. lobsters based on the market value of higher-priced Canadian hard-shell lobsters, the dealers say. U.S. firm-shell lobsters usually cost $3 to $4 less per pound than Canadian hard-shells.

The tariff China is imposing on U.S. lobsters already gives Canadian lobster dealers a competitive advantage that Maine dealers have found almost impossible to overcome in the valuable lobster export market, dealers say. They fear the additional cost of a tariff based on the higher-priced Canadian lobster will scare away the few Chinese customers still willing to consider buying U.S. lobsters.

“It makes our product even more expensive,” said Sheila Adams, a spokeswoman for Maine Coast Seafood in York. “At certain times of the year, the price difference between a firm-shell and a hard-shell lobster can be $3, $4 a pound. If it’s that big, a firm-shell lobster may beat a hard-shell on price. That’s our window. That window closes when the duty is set at a hard-shell price.”

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