China’s Prime Minister Xi Jinping and Australia’s Scott Morrison. Source: tfipost
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  • Ongoing trade tensions between Australia and China have resulted in tonnes of Australian lobsters sitting idle in Chinese airports
  • The rock lobsters are awaiting inspection by Chinese Customs, who have cited concerns about potential trace metal elements
  • Australian fishermen and exporters are worried that their product may spoil and be wasted because of the elongated waiting times
  • The seafood sector is just the latest Australian industry to face enhanced scrutiny from China in recent months
  • Australian exports of barley, wine, timber, cotton, coal and beef, have also faced economic hurdles, exacerbating impacts dealt by COVID-19

Ongoing trade tensions between Australia and China have resulted in tonnes of Australian lobsters sitting idle in Chinese airports.

The vast amounts of Australian rock lobsters are reportedly stranded in airports and clearance houses as they await inspection by Chinese Customs. While inspections of exported and imported goods are just part and parcel of international trade, this particular waiting game is not within the norm.

According to Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud, China is now inspecting between 50 and 100 per cent of Australia’s rock lobsters. This considerable increase is reportedly due to Chinese concerns about trace elements of metals in the lobsters. 

However, many Australian officials believe that this is just China’s latest manoeuvre to weaken the nation’s export economy. The decision could certainly impact the seafood industry, as Australian fishermen and exporters are worried that elongated inspection times will leave their product to spoil.

Executive Officer of the Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery, Kyri Toumazos, commented on the potential waste caused by slow inspections.

“Without China, our market cannot absorb the volume of product that we’re intending to catch, so unfortunately we need this issue resolved as quickly as possible, otherwise there’ll be enormous impacts,” he said.

The seafood industry would be just the latest Australian industry to face enhanced scrutiny from China in recent months. This year, China has imposed a number of economic hurdles, including tariffs and outright bans, on a variety of Australian exports.

These have impacted goods including barley, wine, timber, cotton, coal, and beef, many of which had already suffered from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The various sanctions began cropping up much earlier this year, not long after the Federal Government called for an investigation into China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.

As Australia’s economy is heavily dependent on its exports to China, the intensifying tension between the two nations is taking its toll on Australian industries. If the escalating trade war does not come to an impasse soon, it may spell disaster for the seafood sector. 

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