While demand for all lobster products going into 2022 remains strong, the export sector will be facing access challenges this year in all major markets.
Changes to European Union (EU) health certificates due to new animal welfare laws, new decrees in China that are changing labelling and company registration and concern around North Atlantic right whale interactions with the United States are market access challenges the export sector is facing, says Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada (LCC).
“The LCC is working closely with provincial and the federal government to ensure that the exporting sector understands and is ready for these challenges,” said Irvine.
With labour continuing to be a major challenge to the processing sector in every province, Irvine said the LCC is also “working with the federal government to ensure we can secure the labour required to maximize the value of our lobster resource.”
Demand for all lobster products was strong in 2021, with wholesale prices staying relatively consistent for all lobster products and moving up and down as landing volume ebbed and flowed, said Irvine.
“Export demand for processed lobster has increased dramatically, up 61 per cent compared to 2019 and 97 per cent compared to 2020,” said Irvine. Canadian frozen lobster exports were on pace to surpass $2 billion in 2021, he said.
“Demand is led by the U.S. market where retail led the way during the worst of the pandemic and foodservice helping drive overall demand through 2021. Processed lobster checked all the boxes for Americans — convenient, safe and a luxury during lockdowns. Europe has also seen strong growth in both whole in-shell (whole cooked/raw and tails) and lobster meat. Asian demand for processed lobster dropped in both 2019 and 2021.”
According to LCC statistics, Canadian frozen lobster exports were worth $1.43 billion in 2019, $1.16 billion in 2020 and from January to August 2021, $1.33 billion. The U.S. accounted for 85 per cent of the market.
Demand for live lobster has returned to 2019 levels in terms of value, said Irvine, with the U.S. and China remaining the dominant markets for live lobster, although the EU demand has grown in value and volume.
Canadian live lobster exports totalled $1.16 billion in 2019, $963 million in 2020 and from January to August 2021, $840 million. Asia and the U.S. accounted for 46 and 45 per cent of the market respectfully.
The LCC is entering the third year of its marketing and promotion strategy and is looking forward to negotiating a fourth year of funding through the Atlantic Fisheries Fund’s Canadian Fish and Seafood Opportunities Fund and the lobster sector at large, said Irvine.
“We will finalize the third-year activities in January. I would expect it will include the following: Continuing our social media activities focused on Instagram in Canada and the U.S.; continuing to develop content through the Chef Ambassador program featuring four Canadian Chefs from Atlantic Canada and Ontario; building on our activities in the European Union; building on our activities in China and looking at other Asian markets to continue to diversify our market for processed and live lobster.
“We have record shore and market prices for live and processed lobster which shows that our activities are having an impact in a crowded market for premium protein,” said Irvine. “Our metrics in China and North America show strong growth in social media and search engine activity.”