Mackay Fish Market owner David Caracciolo with a gold threadfin, also known as a King Salmon. Picture: Heidi Petith
Mackay Fish Market owner David Caracciolo with a gold threadfin, also known as a King Salmon. Picture: Heidi Petith

China’s seafood ban a ‘nail in the coffin’ for exporters

A Mackay seafood exporter of 30 years says he is "most definitely worried" about the ripple effects China's import ban will have on the Australian industry.

Mackay Reef Fish Supplies owner David Caracciolo, who has sold seafood in the region since 1986, said China had not renewed import permits leaving Australian exporters in the lurch with nowhere to offload their product.

He said the situation had reached a point where seafood usually destined for overseas - especially in the quiet times in-between Christmas, Chinese New Year and Easter - was being dumped on the domestic market deflating prices.

"When the local market is depressed, it's very hard to sell," Mr Caracciolo said.

"Lobsters went from virtually $100 a kilo each price to $30 and $40 a kilo.

"Coral trout is going to do the same if we can't find somewhere; the price will drop.

"We're all out there trying to find other markets - that would be the ultimate goal."

David Caracciolo. Picture: File
David Caracciolo. Picture: File

Mr Caracciolo said he doubted Australian exporters would be able to find another market willing to pay similar to what the Chinese and Asian market did for seafood.

"A lobster or mud crab or whatever, money is no object," he said.

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A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said the government was engaging with Chinese authorities to gain information about measures impacting Australian seafood exports.

But Mr Caracciolo, who was exporting live mud crabs to China, said besides the permits issue, Australian seafood producers faced obstacles made worse by COVID-19 including rising air freight costs and uncertainties.

David Caracciolo from Mackay Reef Fish Supplies. Picture: File
David Caracciolo from Mackay Reef Fish Supplies. Picture: File

"Other countries like (the) Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia are sending crab into China and those places and we just can't compete," he said.

"The (import) ban certainly put a nail in the coffin."

Mr Caracciolo said while many had left the industry in search of job security, including half his workforce, the government's sponsoring of air freighters and backloads had helped.

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Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the $669 million International Freight Assistance Mechanism was put in place to help exporters reach their overseas customers during COVID-19.

He said they had also announced a $72.7 million Agri-Business Expansion Initiative to encourage Australian exporters to find new overseas market opportunities.

And a Department of Agriculture and Fisheries spokeswoman said the Queensland Government had waived 2020 licence fees for commercial fisheries as part of its COVID industry recovery package.

"The Queensland Government has also provided $500,000 in grants for agribusiness exporters including fisheries businesses to diversify into new markets under the Market Diversification and Resilience Grants program," the DAF spokeswoman said.


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