Coronavirus outbreak affects Chinese lobster demand

The lobster industry will look to work cooperatively with state and federal governments as the outbreak of coronavirus has led to a shutdown of the industry's primary customer, China.

The novel coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan in late 2019 and can cause severe respiratory illness in humans with more than 4000 cases and 100 deaths already reported in China. South Australian Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishermen's Association executive officer Kyri Toumazos said China was the industry's primary customer which took in more than 95 per cent of product in some instances.

He said Chinese customers were not buying lobsters and the industry has had to act quickly to minimise the impact and prevent there being excess product that could not be sold. The issue is the market confidence in China is absolutely compromised and demand is non-existent," he said.

"We have collectively reduced, and in some instances stopped fishing of rock lobster to prevent the problem getting worse."

Mr Toumazos said there was usually huge demand for lobster around the Chinese New Year and the industry's fishing patterns was based around these type of events in China.

Acting Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the state government was working cooperatively with the federal government to respond to the risk of coronavirus.

"The Government is aware the actions being taken in China to manage the outbreak, protect the local population and reduce risk of spread of disease may have unintended economic impacts as Chinese markets are disrupted," he said.

"The SA rock lobster fishery has a mature trading relationship with China and the industry is ready to supply the Chinese people when demand is able to be restored.

"If the disruption to markets is extended the Government is willing to work with the industry to consider policies to assist." Mr Toumazos said for full recovery the industry needed market confidence to rebound and in the meantime cooperation was key minimising financial impact on the rock lobster fishery.

"We will work with the government to give us as much flexibility to alleviate the immediate impact," he said.

The Times will continue to provide coverage of the effects on the lobster industry.

This story Lobsters in limbo first appeared on Port Lincoln Times.