A Western Australian seafood consortium has opened a new live lobster facility in China to satisfy the huge local demand.
Geraldton Fishermen’s Cooperative (GFC) live lobster warehouse facility is located at Baiyun, within the grounds of China’s second largest airport.
It is the first and only Australian business to own holding tanks for live seafood in China.
Assistant Trade Minister Keith Pitt visited the facility and nearby Jiangnan Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market late last month.
Mr Pitt said the large-scale investment was an unequivocal vote of confidence in the benefits of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).
“Exports of premium live Australian rock lobster to China have more than trebled in the first half of this year as Australia’s free trade agreement with China has come into play,” Mr Pitt said.
ChAFTA has seen the tariff for fresh or chilled rock lobster already cut to nine per cent, and it will be reduced again to six per cent from January 1, next year.
“And so with exports of live, fresh and chilled rock lobster growing strongly over the January and June period to reach more than $20 million, the industry has the confidence to invest and employ,” Mr Pitt said.
World’s largest exporter of rock lobsters
GFC, founded in 1950, is now the world’s largest processor and exporter of rock lobsters, exporting more than $450 million worth of rock lobsters each year to 10 global markets.
The Baiyun Airport facility, located in the southern city of Guangzhou, along with a $20 million sister facility under construction at the Perth International Airport, will enable premium live lobsters to be airfreighted to China in just 14 hours, ensuring that this premium product is delivered as fresh as the day it was caught in the pristine waters off Western Australia.
“This is a world first, gives GFC an unbeatable advantage in the China market and I am immensely proud to see Australian innovation, underpinned by good trade policy, creating jobs and growth in fishing communities along the coast of Western Australia,” Mr Pitt said.
GFC CEO Wayne Hosking said ChAFTA gave the company an opportunity to control its own product in the Chinese market.
“We can import our own lobster, creating opportunities to control the branding and promotion, which is very important,” Mr Hosking said.
GFC is owned by a cooperative of about 200 fishermen and directly employs 350 Australians while indirectly supporting jobs for another 8,500 people in coastal fishing communities.
Partnering with Chinese e-commerce platforms
“The Baiyun Airport facility is also allowing GFC to explore more direct consumer retail channels by partnering with Chinese e-commerce platforms and logistics companies,” Mr Pitt said.
The Western Australian rock lobster fishery is one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world, recognised through 16 continuous years of certification from the Marine Stewardship Council.
While visiting the GFC facility Minister Pitt took the opportunity to inspect the nearby Jiangnan Fruit and Vegetable Wholesale Market, China’s largest fruit and vegetable wholesale market and distribution centre with an annual trading volume of more than five billion kilograms, and annual turnover over of about A$4 billion.
“With Australian produce exports to China growing significantly after ChAFTA tariff cuts it was great to see first-hand the markets where our premium produce exports are sold, and the positive reception they are getting from Chinese buyers,” Mr Pitt said.