U.S. lobster exports to China rebounded in 2020

Maine’s lobster industry sees the boost as a positive sign in a year of declining international trade caused primarily by the coronavirus pandemic.

While the coronavirus pandemic tanked U.S. lobster exports overall in 2020, international trade data suggests the industry’s once-thriving U.S.-to-China trade pipeline may be making a comeback.

International sales of U.S. lobster fell by 22 percent last year, from $548.4 million in 2019 to $426.9 million in 2020. The market saw declines in sales to each of the country’s top 10 international buyers, with the notable exception of China, which bought more than $127 million of U.S. lobster, or a roughly 49 percent increase over 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sales to China skyrocketed to $31 million in December, making it the biggest month for U.S. lobster exports to the country since former President Donald Trump’s trade war hit the industry in 2018. By comparison, U.S. lobster sales to China totaled $7.8 million in December 2019 and $10.2 million in December 2018.

That increase is a positive sign for Maine, which generally accounts for 80 percent to 85 percent of all U.S. lobster sales, but it may be too early to pop champagne in celebration.

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