White Goods Service

More than a year ago, Canadian Lobster Association (CLA) officials announced they were struggling to keep up with the rising demand for lobster in North America.

But the supply issues continue to be a problem.

CLA has raised prices on some of its most popular lobster varieties, including the prized Atlantic and Gulf lobsters, but its problems aren’t limited to just those two products.

CLAs lobster sales dropped 5.4 per cent in the quarter ended March 31, according to data released Thursday by the association’s annual report.

“We had some very challenging periods in terms of our supply, our prices and the fact that we have to have a very robust system in place to deal with it,” CLA president and chief executive officer Joe Rinaldi told the CBC.

The association’s shares are down more than 6 per cent since the report was issued.

“This has been a difficult time for the Lobster Council of Canada,” Rinalsi said.

“Our lobster business has been declining for a long time, and it’s just been a constant struggle for us to keep the business going.”

In a press release, CLAs management admitted it was struggling to make money.

“While our lobster production has been growing, we have struggled to make enough money to keep our staff working, and the costs associated with maintaining the business have been a drag on our finances,” the statement said.

CLs chief executive, Joe Rialsi, said his association is working on a plan to manage the supply chain.

But Rinali said the industry is already facing some challenges, including rising demand from China, where consumers have been spending more money.

As China’s appetite for seafood continues to grow, so too does demand for Canadian lobsters.

A year ago in the spring of 2017, the CLA posted a loss of $1.9 million.

In March of this year, it posted a profit of $2.9.

“It is clear that demand has grown in China,” Riali said.

But with prices continuing to rise, he added, “it is becoming increasingly difficult for us.”

The CLA recently raised the prices on two of its popular lobster products, the Gulf and Atlantic varieties, and some of the more popular North American varieties.

In June, the association announced it would be raising prices on the Atlantic lobster, the prized one-pounder, and raised prices for the Atlantic lobsters the one-ounceer.

Rinalgi said the association expects to bring those changes forward, but only after CLAs supply chain is fixed.

“There’s been a lot of talk about us not having a robust supply system in the last year or so,” he said.

The CLAs chief executive also blamed CLAs marketing department for the industry’s woes.

“I’ve had to go out and hire new marketing people to get the word out to our members,” he told CBC.

Rialdi said CLAs needs to “make a much stronger effort” to reach its members.

“If we don’t do that, we will continue to have shortages,” he added.

The clamour for lobster has been rising in recent years, fuelled by Chinese demand for seafood.

China has been importing more than $2 billion worth of lobster from Canada annually.

CLas lobster production is up almost 10 per cent over the last two years.

“When we had this great boom in Chinese demand, we were able to ramp up production and we were exporting more lobster, but when that boom comes to a close and China slows down, it will be very difficult to maintain our business,” Riosdi said.

Rains and storms are predicted to bring a few more storms into the province, but Rinalesi said CLA will still be able to weather them.

“You’ll be able for sure,” he predicted.

With files from The Canadian Press and Reuters

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