Portland - Lobster lovers are used to adjusting to high prices, but this winter, they're shelling out even more for the cherished crustaceans because of a lack of catch off New England and Canada and heavy exports to China.
Winter is typically a slow season for US lobster fishermen and an active one off Atlantic Canada. But catch is slow in both countries this year, in part because of bad weather, industry sources said.
And the winter months are also an important time for exports to lobster-crazy China, which celebrates its New Year holiday on January 28. It's increasingly popular to celebrate the Chinese New Year with American lobster. That's causing demand at a time when supply is low.
American consumers who were paying $9 to $11 for about 500gr for a live lobster in September - already higher than the previous year - are now sometimes paying upward of $13 for 500gr. There are enough lobsters to go around, but China's demand is likely to grow, said Bill Bruns, operations manager at The Lobster Company of Arundel, Maine.
"They are building infrastructure to meet more demand," Bruns said, who added that China's middle class "hasn't stopped growing and they keep eating."
American lobster exports to China have topped 5.4 million kg and $85m in value for three years in a row. The country imported a fraction of that amount as recently as 2010, when it imported less than 500 000kg of the crustaceans.