FREMANTLE rock lobster fishers have welcomed signs that China’s freeze on Australian imports may soon thaw, but say they won’t forget local buyers who got them through the hard times.
Australian trade minister Don Farrell told the ABC last month that an exporter had, for the first time since the ban was announced, applied for an import licence which wasn’t immediately rejected by the Chinese.
Crayfisher and industry representative Fedele Camarda, who’s also a Fremantle councillor, said that was encouraging news after a couple of tough years.
Western Rock Lobster, the WA industry’s peak body, showed that exports plummeted almost a third after the ban, and while there was a little smuggling of Aussie lobsters through Hong Kong and Taiwan, that’s barely lifted total trade.
“Overall, it is ticking away ok. It’s not easy, but we are hanging in there,” Cr Camarda said.
“I am not in the position to comment on China, but we are hopeful.
“We look forward to [renewed trade] but we cannot put a timeframe on it.”
China’s punitive sanctions distressed the Australian market initially, but Australian National University research associate Ye Xue has argued it has conversely increased
the country’s economic confidence and encouraged exporters to diversify.
Cr Camarda agrees, saying the local trade, which included the return of the traditional back-of-boat sales, had been “a real bonus the last couple years.
“We are conscious of the fact that we need to supply other markets, including local. Local is paramount,” he said.
According to WRL, around half of the WA production went to Australian markets last December.
WRL has recently put in place an online ordering and payment platform for Back of Boat sales, after strong demand saw long queues while fishers struggled with the paperwork.
Recent modification of the crayfishing season to better fit the financial year, announced by fisheries minister Don Punch, means fishermen have also had additional flexibility.
Cr Camarda has been crayfishing for over 30 years and his family’s been in the business three generations.
by DANIELA GARBIN