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Lobsters in high demand during Chinese New Year

17th February 2009

This year, the Lunar New Year celebrations begin on 16 February and continue for two weeks - forming the longest holiday and celebration on the Chinese calendar. This year's celebrations mark the year of the dog, however another animal, the lobster, is growing to be far more important during this celebration.

Mixed within beating drums, street parades featuring lion dances and lanterns, food also plays an important role in New Year celebrations. Longevity noodles symbolises long life and dumplings signify wealth, however this year many Chinese tables will feature seafood, with a growing taste for lobster.

Demand for clawed lobsters in China has grown rapidly over the years expanding from $US 2.1 million in 2009 to $US 108 million in 2016. Typically live clawed lobsters from the US state of Maine and Canada, that are branded as "Boston lobster" in China, and sell for $US 50 to $100 each in restaurants. This sounds extremely expensive compared to the prices paid in the US, UK and Europe for live and processed lobster, but more affordable than spiny lobsters, which cost >$US 100 per kg.

Prior to 2010 lobsters were rarely recognised in Chinese New Year. However, in China, where the colour red is considered lucky, this helps elevate the price of both spiny and clawed lobsters. Furthermore, the red colour has a resemblance to the dragon, which again in China is conceived as bringing good luck. What makes Chinese New Year so special for lobster fisherman, exporters and aquaculture farmers alike is that unlike Christmas, which is celebrated over one day, Chinese New Year is celebrated over many days, making this festival a very lucrative period.

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