Chinese demand for lobsters booms with free trade deal

Tigers International Solutions forwarding director, David Wilkins

The Australia/China Free Trade Agreement has resulted in significant growth in live animal shipments to China, Tigers International Solutions forwarding director, David Wilkins (pictured) tells Air Cargo Week.

He says Mainland China is a major consumer of live lobsters, and though Japan is also an important market in the region, there is not the same demand.

Wilkins predicts the peak season will be strong, saying: “2017 will be very strong for us from 1 November right through until Chinese New Year in February 2018. A lot of work is being done in developing the direct B2C model to service the time definite consumer demand in China.”

Secondary gateways are expected to open up for the product and some of the traditional distribution models will change and disappear.

A significant part of Tigers’ business in the Western Australian airfreight market is linked to live lobster exports.

Wilkins explains: “The Western Australian live rock lobster fishery is a $500 million industry and we currently enjoy an 80 per cent market share of the export airfreight portion of the 6.4 million kilogrammes that are sent live to China during the annual season.

“Our client base consists of the export processor companies who use our services to organise the airfreight of these highly perishable crustaceans to get the markets within the acceptable time limits.”

All lobsters are packed according to IATA live animal regulations, and the methods of packing are designed to ensure that the lobsters arrive in the optimum condition.

Wilkins says: “We are aware of the CITIES regulations that apply and all of the necessary permits are issued with Government approvals at both origin/destination and in accordance with airline regulations. This ensures that only known bona fide organisations can export live animals.”

He says the biggest challenge is ensuring there is sufficient airspace to match the market demand for the product with the available stock that is ready to be exported.

If not then problems occur, Wilkins explains: “Should an aircraft be delayed during the journey, this can have catastrophic effects on the mortality rate of the lobsters. As there is a maximum time limit that the lobsters can be out of the holding tanks between origin and destination.”

Wilkins is very excited about the future of transporting live lobsters, saying: “Consumer demand along with the increasing sophistication and streamlined last mile delivery means that perceived barriers will no long exist. The future is very exciting and I am optimistic that the challenges faced will be overcome.”