Domestic shrimp producers will find out Tuesday whether they’ll be one step closer to getting relief from the subsidized imports that have taken over about 75 percent of the U.S. market for the shellfish and that, the shrimpers say, cost them billions of dollars in lost revenue.
The U.S. International Trade Commission will hold a hearing Tuesday for the final phase of a duty investigation of frozen warm-water shrimp imports from seven countries: China, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Ecuador.
It will decide whether the subsidized shrimp imports are causing “material injury” to domestic producers. The seven countries exported more than 984 million pounds of shrimp worth nearly $4.3 billion in 2011.Overall, shrimp consumption in the U.S. is increasing and Gulf Coast processors are working to stay competitive in a growing market. In 2011, the U.S. consumed 4.7 billion pounds of seafood, surpassing Japan to become the second largest consumer, after China.
The Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries filed a petition last December, claiming that an increase in subsidized imports is hurting the U.S. shrimp industry. The coalition represents shrimp processors from Mississippi, Texas, Florida, Alabama and Louisiana, which make up 94 percent of domestic shrimp production.
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According to the coalition, the seven foreign countries account for 89 percent of U.S. shrimp imports and three-quarters of the shrimp sold in this country.
“The prices are so low that if you do not catch in great volumes, you can pretty much tie up your boat,” said Kim Chauvin, the owner of the Louisiana processor Bluewater Shrimp Co. “Last year we lost about 30 different customers because of pricing, and that makes or breaks your year.”