Western Rock Lobster Market Report | August 2020
Please read on for updated information regarding western rock lobster catches for the 2019/2020 season and lobster imports into China during 2020. This month’s markets content also includes commentary regarding economic conditions in China, geopolitical tensions and trade policy developments, a new study regarding potential COVID-19 transmission, and the suspension of MSC certification for the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery.
Western Rock Lobster Catch Data for the 2019/2020 Season to Date
The ‘Catch Balance Graph By Zone (Warehouse)’ report is prepared twice-monthly by DPIRD, most recently on 28 August. It provides information on entitlement landed within the West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery (WCRLMF), on a monthly and zonal basis.
Please note that the data presented do not necessarily represent all fishing activity for the period, particularly with reference to delays in receiving and entering catch data from fishers and processors. Regarding the figures for the latest month, an eventual revision of 10–25 per cent would not be at all inconsistent with the historical pattern of revisions.
If you have any queries in relation to the report, please e-mail QMSAdmin@fish.wa.gov.au or contact the Rock Lobster Help Line 1300 574 071.
Update of Data for China Imports of Lobster during 2020
Data from the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (GACC) provides an illustration of the effect that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been having on the international trade in lobster. More detail regarding the international trade in lobster, including China imports, will be presented in the forthcoming WRL publication, An overview of global lobster production and international trade: 2020 edition.
Update on Economic Conditions in China
China was the first country to contend with an outbreak of COVID-19 and its economic contraction and recovery have therefore run ahead of those in other economies. Authorities have managed to quickly contain a handful of localised outbreaks in recent months without resorting to widespread lockdowns.
Economic output recovered strongly in the June quarter and many sectors have now reached or surpassed their pre-outbreak volumes of activity. In most respects, the economic recovery has surprised on the upside. However, consumer spending has been slow to recover relative to the industrial sector. Relatively little direct government support has been provided to households so far; some cities have issued consumption vouchers to encourage spending at restaurants and on certain retail goods, but these measures have been limited in size. The restaurant sector is yet to recover to its pre-outbreak volume of activity.
The rebound in economic activity is expected to continue in the second half of the year, though at a slower pace. Higher than usual uncertainty about the outlook has led the Chinese authorities to refrain from setting a target for annual economic growth, for the first time since 1990.
Continuing Geopolitical Tensions with China and Related Trade Developments
As widely reported, several trade sanctions have been imposed or flagged by China over the past several months, and commentary abounds that Australia’s political relationship with China has deteriorated. Australia has had no high-level trade contact with China since Trade Minister Simon Birmingham travelled to Shanghai in November 2019, before the COVID-19 crisis emerged.
In May, four large export beef abattoirs were suspended from China market access. The four meatworks represent a large portion of Australia’s chilled beef access into China. To note, this comes at a time when China has been severely impacted by the effects of African Swine Fever which has decimated the domestic pig herd, leaving China desperately short of meat protein in general. China accounted for almost 30 per cent of Australia’s total beef exports in 2019.
Also in May, Australian barley was made subject to an 80.5 per cent tariff after an 18-month investigation by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce ruled that both dumping and subsidisation had occurred. China accounted for around 60 per cent of Australia’s total barley exports by value in the five years to 2018–19.
There have been further developments in relation to both beef and barley during this past month: a fifth Australian abattoir has been suspended from exporting to China; and, CBH Marketing and Trading (CBH Grain Pty Ltd) has been suspended from exporting barley to China. Sanitary/phytosanitary issues were cited in relation to these suspensions, though CBH disputes the findings in relation to barley.
Also this month, an investigation into dumping of wine into the China market has been announced. China represented over one-third of Australia’s total wine exports by value in 2019.
A theme appears to be emerging that China is willing to impact trade partners, even at the expense of its domestic consumers. Food for thought for our western rock lobster industry, given China imports about 95 per cent of our production.
Study suggests COVID-19 can survive the transportation and storage conditions of international food trade
Can the novel coronavirus be transmitted via food? The WHO advises that it is very unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging. However, New Zealand’s first outbreak of COVID-19 after more than 100 days has been hypothesised to come from imported food. And reports out of China indicate that the coronavirus has been detected on imported frozen chicken and frozen shrimp packaging material.
A recent study conducted in Singapore may give some insight. Researchers inoculated salmon, chicken and pork with the virus, and tested persistence after 3 weeks storage. They found that infectivity was maintained in both chilled (4⁰C) and frozen (-20⁰C and -80⁰C) samples. This shows that the virus can survive the time and temperature associated with international food trade transportation and storage conditions. It appears, then, that there is some potential for outbreaks to be seeded by food or packaging contaminated at source and transported great distances. This knowledge should have implications for all participants in food supply chains.
MSC Suspends Certification of Gulf of Maine Lobster Fishery
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has suspended its certification of the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery after determining that the fishery was potentially jeopardizing the survival of the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale. Lobster caught after the suspension date (August 31, 2020) and before any reinstatement shall not be sold or bought as MSC certified and no claims may be made nor ecolabel used on such lobster during this time. The MSC states that the suspension will not be lifted until the submission of a ‘corrective action plan that will ensure that right whale mortality is reduced to a level that will promote species survival’.