Tasmanian abalone exports to China double in 2016

China's demand for Tasmanian abalone has doubled in the past year, boosting the state's $100 million-a-year abalone export industry.

That, along with beach prices almost doubling in the past five years to about $60 a kilogram, has given the struggling industry a much-needed boost.

It comes as the Tasmanian Pacific oyster industry forges links with Japan to grow the sector in both countries.

The abalone industry was worth about $300 million a year to the state economy, and by tapping into the growing Chinese market, Premier Will Hodgman said it was fast becoming one of Tasmania’s most iconic exports.

“The Chinese have discovered what Tasmanians have always known, that we have some of the best seafood in the world, especially abalone,” he said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that seafood products, mainly abalone and Atlantic salmon, with about one-fifth rock lobster, increased by 27.3 per cent in the year to June 2016 compared to the previous year. Seafood exports contributed $187 million to the Tasmanian economy.

In 2016, abalone exports to China doubled, and that momentum was expected to continue, with the Chinese New Year just a few weeks away.

“The free trade agreement that Australia struck with China recently has also provided a massive boost, with Chinese tariffs on abalone imports dropping from 14 per cent two years ago, to 3.5 per cent this year,” Mr Hodgman said.

“The abalone import tariff will be abolished altogether next year.

“With an export value of about $100 million a year, the industry generates economic activity of around $300 million a year in Tasmania.”

Abalone exporter Tasmanian Seafoods has been growing its workforce at its Margate and Smithton facilities, with total wages paid increasing 25 per cent over the past four years.

“We are working with the Tasmanian Abalone Council to make sure the industry continues to be one of our best performing export industries for generations to come,” Mr Hodgman said.

Meanwhile, Shellfish Cuture Limited general manager Greg Bowers told ABC the company was working with Osaka-based agribusiness Yanmar to grow the oyster industries in Japan and Australia.

It is understood a collaborative agreement was reached between the two companies, setting out around five projects.