Shrimpers Seek End to Foreign Dumping
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ After enduring years of plummeting prices, American shrimpers filed an antidumping petition Wednesday seeking to get the government to impose tariffs on cheap, pond-raised shrimp from overseas.
The petition was filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., by the Southern Shrimp Alliance, an eight-state group made up of shrimpers and processors from South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico states.
The group claims the value of the U.S. harvest dropped by more than half between 2000 and 2002 _ from $1.25 billion to $560 million _ and that there was a 40 percent drop in employment at Southern shrimp factories.
``The goal here is the elimination of unfair trade,″ said Bradford Ward, the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s lawyer. ``You have a number of boats being repossessed because they cannot make the payments.″
The petitioners will try to convince commerce officials that shrimp is illegally sold for less in the United States than it is sold in the countries where the shrimp originates. For example, Ward said medium to small shrimp sells for about $6.14 in Brazil while the same Brazilian shrimp sells for about $4.40 in the United States, a margin of about 40 percent.
The International Trade Commission is expected to rule by mid-February on whether the industry has unfairly suffered from imports whose prices were artificially low. The petition would affect imports from China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Ecuador and Brazil.
The European Union and Japan have recently clamped down on shrimp imports because of health concerns about antibiotics in farm-raised shrimp. That forced many exporters into the American market, and contributed to the downward slide in prices.
The shrimp group’s action immediately drew the support of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Reps. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, and David Vitter, R-La.
``Shrimping is not just a part of our state’s economy, it is a way of life for many people in south Louisiana,″ Landrieu said. ``For our shrimpers to feed their families and fuel their boats, they must receive a fair price for their catch.″
But the American Seafood Distributors Association, an industry group that supports free trade in seafood, came out against the petition.
``The domestic shrimp industry has failed to anticipate the dramatic change in production methods from fishing to farming,″ said Wally Stevens, the ASDA’s president. The lower prices of shrimp made possible by the imports, he added, were ``a tremendous benefit to the consumer.″
Vietnam, which exported $467 million worth of shrimp to the United States in 2002, has said it would work to fight the petition. The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers said this week that it has raised about $70,000 to fight the lawsuit.
According to the Southern Shrimp Alliance, imports from the six countries increased from 466 million pounds in 2000 to 780 million pounds in 2003.
On the Net:
Southern Shrimp Alliance: http://www.shrimpalliance.com
American Seafood Distributors Association: http://www.freetradeinseafood.org/