Success at Seafood Expo Asia in 2016

Matt Gallucci, Annie Tselikis and Lyle Brown were greeted by a dragon wishing them good luck at the beginning of Seafood Expo Asia
Matt Gallucci, Annie Tselikis and Lyle Brown were greeted by a dragon wishing them good luck at the beginning of Seafood Expo Asia

York-based Maine Coast just returned from a three-day seafood expo in Hong Kong, where business is booming. To date, the company has surpassed its 2015 annual sales to Asia.

“We’re definitely seeing more interest from more Asian countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and South Korea,” said Annie Tselikis, the company’s marketing manager, on Monday. “The media often latches onto the story about lobster in mainland China, and certainly that growth has been notable. But there has been considerable lobster market expansion in Korea, due largely to a successful (free trade agreement) the U.S. has had with that country that has allowed U.S. businesses to be competitive players.”

The company attributes “astronomical” sales to countries like South Korea, China, Vietnam and Malaysia for its 160 percent compounded annual growth rate from 2011 to date.

The free trade agreement with the Republic of Korea took effect in 2012, making about 80 percent of South Korean imports duty free. Interestingly, the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration never identified lobster or commercial fisheries as industries expected to benefit from the trade agreement. Rather, Maine’s paper and electronics industries, transportation equipment manufacturers and farmers with dairy, beef, fruits and vegetables to export were expected to be the big winners.

Global trade continues to shift. Last year, paper and wood products were the top commodities exported from Maine, followed by electric machinery and computer chips. Lobster came in third.

This year, though, lobster is gaining. Through July, lobster is the second leading export behind paper and wood products, notching $186.8 million in sales to the forest products’ $288.7 million.

Aviation components are No.3 at $169.9 million and computer components and other electric machinery have fallen to No. 4 at $155.8 million.

It’s worth noting that five years ago, live lobster exports tallied $419.4 million. Last year, they exceeded $578 million, with Asian countries leading the surge.

Originally published Thursday, September15, 2016 in the Portland Press Herald