Trump's Trade War Hits the Lobster Business

Layoffs and lagging prices damage the industry
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 15, 2018 1:34 PM CDT
In this Wednesday, July 25, 2018 photo, lobster fishing boats head out to sea on a foggy morning off South Portland, Maine.   (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
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(Newser) – The American lobster industry is starting to feel the pinch of China's tariff on US seafood as exporters and dealers cope with sagging prices, new financial pressures, and difficulty sending lobsters overseas, the AP reports. China is a major buyer of lobsters, and it imposed a heavy tariff on exports from the US in early July amid trade hostilities between the two superpowers. Exporters in the US say their business in China has dried up since then. Wholesale prices for live lobsters have also dipped a bit as dealers have lost markets. Prices in July and August were both slightly less than the same month in the previous year, business publisher Urner Barry reported.

One exporter, The Lobster Co. of Arundel, Maine, resorted to laying off four people, which constituted 25% of its wholesale staff, says Stephanie Nadeau, the company's owner. "I can cut my variable costs and tuck my head in and see if this storm passes," she says. "What they've done is made it so everybody is fighting over the remaining customers. Price goes down, margins go down." China applied the tariffs to a suite of American seafood products, including tuna and crab. It made the move at a time when many Chinese are acquiring a taste for American lobster. China's American lobster imports grew from $108.3 million in 2016 to $142.4 million last year, and the country barely imported any American lobster a decade ago.

(Read more tariffs stories.)

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