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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 August, 2003, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
US shrimpers join seafood battle
Shrimp farm ponds in Vietnam
Shrimp farmed in Asia accounts for much of the US market
Fresh from a recent legal victory over Vietnamese catfish farmers, seafood producers in the United States are now targeting imports of shrimp, or prawns.

Last month, the US Federal Trade Commission backed protests by American catfish farmers and imposed massive duties on cheap Vietnamese imports.

Calling for similar duties on shrimp, American fishermen are accusing around a dozen countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, China and India, of dumping cheap seafood on the American market.

The Southern Shrimp Alliance, an eight-state group formed to safeguard jobs and stabilise prices, says its keen to press ahead with legal action.

Backing

The Alliance has received support from other US industries that feel threatened by cheap imports.

"We need rational government policies that balance imports with the need to maintain family-sustaining jobs for American workers," said the president of United Steelworkers of America (USWA), Leo Gerard, according to seafood.com.

"Similar to the manufacturing sector, the shrimp fishing industry has provided thousands of decent-paying jobs for American workers for many decades," he said earlier this year.

"The federal government should act quickly on this import crisis to offset dislocation and job loss for shrimp industry workers along the Southern coastline."

Shrimp is a big seller in the US.

Last year, Americans consumed 1.4bn pounds of the shellfish, making it America's best selling seafood, according to the American Seafood Distributors Association.

The bulk of this was imported, with US producers now accounting for just 15% of the market.

Marketing opportunity

The Seafood Distributors' Association does not support the campaign to slap duties on shrimp imports, arguing that US producers' would achieve better results through improved marketing.

"The realities of the global supply situation, particularly with aquaculture, have really come to hit hard on the domestic shrimp industry," acknowledged the Association's president, Wally Stevens.

Mr Stevens, who also runs Slade and Gorton, a seafood marketing company, insisted that rather than taking protective measures, the fishermen should do more to attract customers.

Given that the legal action is unlikely to succeed, and that the market share of American shrimp fishermen is so low, they should see this as a marketing opportunity, he said.

"[This] makes them a perfect candidate for niche marketing of their products similar to what other seafood products, such as Copper River Pink Salmon, Key West Pink Shrimp have done, and we see greater value for their products," he said.

But with a highly complex legal process about to be set in motion, any resolution from this looming trade row could be a long time coming.


WATCH AND LISTEN
American Seafood Distributors' Wally Stevens
"The global supply situation, particularly with aquaculture, have really come to hit hard on the domestic shrimp industry"



SEE ALSO:
US steps up Asian trade wars
24 Jul 03  |  Business
Bangladesh prawn farmers hit back
20 May 03  |  South Asia
Prawn fishing 'plundering seas'
19 Feb 03  |  Science/Nature


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