Despite a decline in volume and value for Maine’s lobster industry in 2017, one Portland, Maine, processor is getting started on a major investment to boost it’s in-state output.
Ready Seafood won zoning approval last week to build a new lobster processing facility on 40 acres in nearby Saco. The facility will include space for processing, as well as tanks for live lobsters being shipped.
“We’re doing this to meet the wants and demands of our customers,” said Brendan Ready, noting that their processing facility in Scarborough and live facility in Portland will continue running at full speed. “We knew we had hit capacity at our current facilities. We’re psyched to have a new location and not be limited to what we can handle at the moment.”
According to Annie Tselikis, director of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association, Maine exported $215 million worth of wholesale lobster to Canada in 2017, most of it for processing.
“Any growth in processing capacity here at home is a good thing,” Tselikis told the Portland Press Herald, adding that she was unfamiliar with with the details of the new project. “When we send our lobster to Canada to get processed, we lose our country of origin. It becomes a product of Canada. We want our lobster to remain just that: a signature product of Maine.”
Tselikis said that 30 to 40 percent of lobsters landed in Minae end up in Canada. Maine only has six large processing facilities, whereas Canadian lobstermen have access to four times as many.
"We want to maximize the value of this product that the lobstermen of Maine work hard to harvest and protect," said Ready. "The less handling time between the lobster being caught and being in the hands of the consumer the better."
"We feel it is the right thing to do for the industry, which certainly needs more processing infrastructure," John Ready, co-founder of the company, told the Press Herald.
The Saco City Council voted last Monday to allow food processing facilities in multiuse and industrial districts, allowing for Ready Seafood to announce its plans. Saco officials are expecting significant job creation when the new facility opens.
Ready said the company hopes to break ground this summer and have the facility operational by summer 2019.