Live lobster shipment from Nova Scotia to China resumes
Shipments to China decreased in late January as the coronavirus spread
For the first time in more than a month, live lobster from Nova Scotia has been flown to China, after fear of the coronavirus and travel restrictions caused market sales to plummet.
Premier Stephen McNeil said just under 70 tonnes of live lobster were shipped from the Halifax Stanfield International Airport to China on Saturday, which is about two-thirds of a full flight.
"We're just hoping it's the first of many," McNeil told reporters at the legislature Tuesday.
During peak times of the year, seven to eight weekly cargo flights depart the Halifax airport with seafood products for Asian markets, an airport spokesperson told CBC News in January.
Shipments to China — a critical market for Nova Scotia lobster — decreased in late January as travel restrictions implemented by the Chinese government kept people in their homes and out of restaurants.
Live lobster sales from Canada to China in the first 10 months of 2019 were $384 million, with most of that coming from Nova Scotia, where lobster sales overall for the year were estimated at $1.2 billion by the province.
McNeil said this first shipment is a test to see if the market in China is opening up again.
"[We're] seeing some positive signs in terms of in China when it comes to the ability to manage this virus," he said. "They have a unique situation where they can actually shut the place down, so you start to see the numbers decline of people who have the disease."
China is slowly returning to normalcy as travel restrictions are lifted and temporary hospitals are shut down. The country has reported only 19 new infections Tuesday, down from thousands each day last month.
Geoff Irvine, the executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada, said this first shipment is a good sign.
"As of right now, we're not sure when the next one will be, but it is encouraging," Irvine said.
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture Keith Colwell said China still has some inventory that is being moved slowly through e-commerce.
People in China can order small lobsters to their home from retailers, and this new shipment will add to that inventory.
"We just have to get the health of the people in China ... back to normal again and back to normal life again," Colwell said. "Once that happens, we'll be back in business again."
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With files from Jean Laroche, Paul Withers