On a Roll: American Lobster Exports
We were surprised to see lobsters break into the top 25 US agricultural exports for the first time in our latest monthly ranking report, based on the value of trade in August. Typically, the ag trade ranking reports are dominated by in-season commodities such as soybeans, corn, wheat and cotton. Maine lobsters seem (to us, anyway) to be luxe, niche products.
But it turns out that Maine is bucking a couple of trends: In an era of depleted fisheries, its lobstermen are bringing in bigger catches. While the numbers aren’t in for this season (which runs through November), last year’s catch was up 74% compared with 10 years ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.
And, while US exporters are getting pounded by a strong dollar and weakened global demand, the lobster industry centered in Maine is feeding a growing market overseas. Indeed, demand is strong enough to sustain premium prices.
Just this month, Emirates airlines launched its second daily service between Dubai and Boston Logan international airports to handle growing passenger traffic … but also shipments of lobster.
In fact, Emirates says, lobsters account for 55% of the value of its cargo exports out of Boston, transported via the bellyhold of the airline’s wide body Boeing 777 and its cool chain solutions. Roughly 224,000 lobsters a month are flying out of Boston bound for Dubai, Shanghai, Guangdong, Bangkok and Taiwan.
Here’s the trade data on American lobster exports “in sealed containers” (HS 030612) and the live lobsters (HS 030622) that boost shipments to their peaks in each year’s second-half.
Below is the trade data on the top markets for American lobsters. Note the widening orange band. China, sixth-ranked destination accounting for less than 5% of the overseas shipments in first-half 2012, was top-ranked in first-half 2015, with almost 20% share. (Of course, come the second-half, Canada will reclaim its commanding lead as the top market for live lobsters.)
Even in China, Maine may buck a trend. Undercurrent News reports that, while seafood exporters are worried about China’s economic slowdown, companies serving niche markets for Maine lobsters (as well as Alaska salmon and black tiger shrimp) are confident that Chinese customers will continue to splurge on these “made in America” products.
- You can download the monthly US Agricultural Exports & Imports ranking reports here.
- Browse our free report library for more monthly ranking reports … as well as Tops in Trade reports on top consignees, shippers, carriers, and trends in US Tilapia Imports and US Shrimp Imports.
Date posted: October 23, 2015