Abalone producer welcomes emergency export flight plan as Chinese demand drops

Ocean Grown Abalone managing director Brad Adams says the COVID-19 crisis has impacted his production volumes, revenue and staffing. Photos: Russell Ord
Ocean Grown Abalone managing director Brad Adams says the COVID-19 crisis has impacted his production volumes, revenue and staffing. Photos: Russell Ord

Augusta-based abalone farmer Brad Adams has welcomed the announcement of the Federal government's plan to send emergency flights loaded with Australian produce to key export markets.

Last week, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham announced that $110 million would be spent on flights to China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

The Ocean Grown Abalone (OGA) managing director said the news came at an uncertain time for the previously-booming aquaculture business.

"Our business has had to reduce our harvest volumes in response to the decrease in demand for seafood in China," Mr Adams said.

"This has impacted our revenue and caused the loss of some staff."

Brad Adams says over 60 per cent of Ocean Grown Abalone's exports are to Hong Kong and China. Photos: Russell Ord

Brad Adams says over 60 per cent of Ocean Grown Abalone's exports are to Hong Kong and China. Photos: Russell Ord

Abalone is a highly sought after seafood particularly prized by Chinese consumers.

That demand has seen delicacies farmed at the unique Augusta operation skyrocket in popularity.

"The Chinese market is very important to OGA.

"Over 60 per cent of our exports are to China and Hong Kong. The virus has caused a decrease in prices and a big drop in demand."

Mr Adams said the assistance would help businesses continue to harvest and trade while the crisis plays out.

The WA business has harnessed a unique aquaculture farming technique - using concret 'abitats' to grow the prized seafood. Photos: Russell Ord

The WA business has harnessed a unique aquaculture farming technique - using concret 'abitats' to grow the prized seafood. Photos: Russell Ord

"The OGA business is ready to harvest more abalone as China gets back to work.

"The Australian Government is backing Australia's agriculture and seafood export sectors through a new initiative to help exporters get their high-quality produce into key overseas markets, with return flights bringing back vital medical supplies, medicines and equipment critical to the ongoing health response."

In addition, around $10 million in Australian Fisheries Management Authority levies will also be waived for all Commonwealth fishers, ensuring they do not have to pay Commonwealth levies for the remainder of 2020.

"I think in the long term demand for premium seafood in China will always be strong and will keep growing," said Mr Adams.

"In the short term there will be subdued demand as the Chinese economy slowly rebuilds from this devastating pandemic.

"I hope that everyone stays safe and we can get back to our normal way of life soon."