Cheap lobsters due to Chinese tariffs prompt surge in domestic seafood consumption
The peak body representing the country’s seafood sector says Australians have backed local producers following China’s decisions to turn its back on the industry last year.
December sales data provided by Seafood Industry Australia shows local consumption rose 30 per cent compared with the same trading period in 2019, with reduced prices for lobster being a major attraction for consumers switching to domestic produce.
SIA chief executive Veronica Papacosta said the “bumper” Christmas period assisted the sector in clawing back some of the expected losses set to be incurred by the trade fallout with China.
“We needed a bumper Christmas period to help us claw our way back. We called on the community to support us and switch one meal on the Christmas table to Australian seafood, and we are beyond thrilled to report they did just that,” she said.
“We’re hearing from retailers and producers right across the country that they’re up, on average, 30 per cent from last year’s December sales.”
Woolworths flagged rock lobster sales were 20 times higher in 2020 Christmas trading compared with 2019 figures for the same period.
The major supermarket also confirmed the $20 western rock lobster promotion had ended.
Ms Papacosta noted while the increase in sales had been welcomed, retailers and producers with businesses heavily exposed to the export market were still struggling from the loss of the Chinese cash cow that had traditionally supported the industry.
“While we’ve had wonderful festive sales, this doesn’t mean we’re completely in the clear, but this goes a long way to help. Our key food service and export markets are still trending down, and as an industry we continue to be impacted by the ongoing trade riff with China,” she said.
The country’s seafood industry has been hit hard by import tariffs imposed by China, the sector’s primary export market.
Whole industries such as rock lobster fishing have predominantly been built on exporting product to the major economy.
China has slapped Australia with a multitude of trade sanctions, including tariffs on coal, barley, meat, seafood and wine.
It has been widely reported the tariffs are the result of Australia being a leading voice into calling for a global independent inquiry on the origins of the coronavirus.
SIA is calling for the increase in Australian seafood consumption to continue in order to support the industry.
“If just one per cent of the population committed to changing one meal a week to locally sourced Australian seafood like prawns, salmon or snapper, that would be more than 250,000 meals per week of Australian seafood on tables around the country,” Ms Papacosta said.
“This could mean the difference between a fisher making or missing a mortgage payment and a boat heading out of harbour or spending another week docked.”
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails