Little boys and little girls all around the world are eagerly anticipating the arrival of jolly St. Nick this Yuletide season. But, in China, affluent consumers are looking forward to the arrival of another jolly, red-suited character: imported lobster (the shell will turn more red after cooking).
Demand for lobster has continued to rise as more and more Chinese families join the middle class, ensuring that lots of Chinese holiday-goers will trade in their nutcrackers for something that can pierce crustacean shells.
Australia is doing its best to keep up with the high demand. “We can sell as much lobster as we can get, mainly into the export market,” Andrew Ferguson, the managing director of an Adelaide firm that exports southern rock lobster told Australia’s ABC News.
Ferguson called China a “great market” where consumers “love their live lobster, they love live abalone and other seafood” so much that they are willing to pay top dollar for lobster imports.
“The South Australian lobster is probably the highest-priced lobster in the world into the Chinese market,” he added.
Lobster tails are selling online for $140 AUD per kilogram (700 yuan), and frozen whole lobsters are priced at $90 AUD per kilogram (450 yuan). With demand booming this Christmas, some top specimens are selling at $197 AUD each (1000 yuan).
Chinese demand for the antennae-wearing seafloor dwellers is also being felt over in the US where lobster exports to China’s middle class have shot up exponentially over the past ten years, jumping by $90 million in 2014.
Canada, too, has enjoyed a booming lobster market where exports to China tripled to $30 million in 2013.
The willingness of Chinese consumers to pay extremely high prices for imported lobster — between $50 and $100 in restaurants — reflect ongoing food safety concerns of seafood caught in and around China.
This year’s hairy crab festival in Hong Kong was marred when authorities banned imports coming from Jiangsu province, citing excessive levels of cancer-causing agents. This year also saw the arrests of 14 suspects who imported 5,000 tons of contaminated seafood into China, some of it caught around the radioactive area surrounding Fukushima, Japan.
By Charles Liu
[Images via China Daily]
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