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Gov't Report: U.S. Shrimp Industry Needs to Downsize, Restructure

WASHINGTON - The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) late last week released an assessment of the struggling domestic shrimping industry that calls for radical restructuring, rather than trade protection or subsidies.

Among the solutions proposed by the NMFS in the report, "Draft Shrimp Business Options: Proposals to Develop a Sustainable Shrimp Fishery in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic," were shrinking the domestic shrimp fleet, reorganizing shrimpers into cooperatives, improving product differentiation from imported shrimp through marketing, and implementing a government buyback program.

"We are glad these proposals are finally public, and we hope the industry takes to heart the report that they themselves requested," said Wally Stevens, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Shrimp Task Force, an alliance of the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition (CITAC) and the American Seafood Distributors Association (ASDA), in a statement. "The NMFS report confirms that domestic shrimpers need to stop pointing fingers and begin working constructively to help themselves. They have serious long-term problems that need to be faced directly, including high costs, poor product marketing, and sheer overcapacity -- too many boats chasing too few shrimp."

According to Deborah Long, spokeswoman for the Southern Shrimp Alliance, however, the report's proposals come "too little, too late." The marketing initiative that the report recommends, for example, has already been adopted by the industry, she told Progressive Grocer. Long added that her organization disagreed with the report's position that imports couldn't be addressed by the U.S. shrimp industry. "Imports can be addressed if they're unfairly traded," she said. Pointing out that it was based on old information and didn't reflect the substantial changes in the industry since 2000, she observed that, in general, the study is "outdated and therefore doesn't yield useful conclusions." The Southern Shrimp Alliance represents members of the shrimp industry in eight Southern coastal states.

Linda Candler, v.p. of communications at the National Fisheries Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization, told PG that although "we haven't had an opportunity to go through the whole report," her group was "supportive of a marketing effort to position domestic shrimp, and a buyback program."

The Department of Commerce recently announced preliminary margins on imported shrimp from Brazil, ranging from 0 percent to 67.8 percent; from Ecuador, ranging from 6.08 percent to 9.35 percent; from India, ranging from 3.56 percent to 27.49 percent; and from Thailand, ranging from 5.56 percent to 10.25 percent. Earlier the department issued preliminary margins on shrimp imports from China, ranging from 0.04 percent to 112.81 percent, and from Vietnam, ranging from 12.11 percent to 93.13 percent.
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