China tariff cuts have little current effect, say Digby fishing companies

Published on February 6, 2017

The Digby wharf.

©Tina Comeau

DIGBY, N.S. – Two local fishery businesses say that China’s recent cut to tariffs on seafood imports will have next to no impact on their businesses.

It was announced last month that China had made a tariff cut to seafood import products, including lobster. On average, the tariff was lowered from 11 per cent to 5 per cent.

Gidney Fisheries and Nautical Fisheries are two Digby companies that export lobsters to China. Neither will be changing the way they do business, or the amount of product they ship.

Robert MacDonald, president and general manager of Gidney Fisheries, says this tariff cut will not bring much of an increase in profit.

“It’s a benefit, for sure, but it’s not going to affect people’s decision making processes,” he says. “But it certainly makes things cheaper for China.”

Nova Scotia is Canada’s largest seafood exporter. Last year, $218 million worth of seafood had already been shipped to China by October.

This stable rate of exports is why MacDonald believes his company will not see any permanent impact.

Norman Lockyer, chief financial officer for Nautical Fisheries, agrees that these tariffs don’t change much, and that it’s still ‘business neutral’ at this point.

“We price according to market, and have not changed our prices,” he says.

He says the United States has been shipping products, mainly lobster, to China for years, without a duty – a stiff challenge for Canadian products to compete against.

“These products have become so Americanized in China,” he says. “It’s discouraging to go to a hotel that sells lobster from Digby but calls it ‘Boston Lobster.’”

Both parties agree that this tariff cut is a temporary measure. MacDonald attributes the tariff cut to a celebratory period in China, where Chinese New Year was just celebrated Jan. 28.

He says the only thing that could drastically change the way he does business would be if the markets became free trade, like those between China and the United States.

Lockyer also wants to see the markets open up, and has faith in Canada’s exports.

“I think China might open markets up more once it realizes the quality of our product,” he says.