The US customs has initiated new efforts to prevent Chinese shrimp producers from evading trade and food safety laws.
The shrimp sectors in Louisiana and other southern states are fighting against the illegal dumping of cheap imported shrimps, which are often sold below production costs, on the US market.
The difficulties in the domestic shrimp industry have prompted the US Department of Commerce to issue anti-dumping rules, and the US Food and Drug Administration has subjected Chinese shrimp to a food safety import alert. However, enforcement on both fronts has been difficult.
By labelling products improperly, Chinese shrimps have entered the US with little or no scrutiny, and payments meant for domestic producers went unpaid. Custom officials also stopped more than 30 containers of Chinese shrimp illegally labelled as Indonesian products back in October at the port of Los Angeles. The shrimps were denied entry because they were believed contaminated with banned veterinary drugs, such as nitrofurans.
John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, lauded the efforts of the customs to address illegal imports.
It is estimated that US$60 million worth of Chinese shrimp entered the US market in 2005 falsely labelled as Indonesian products. The US import data also indicates that the shipment of Chinese shrimp through Malaysia remain unabated.
Williams said US laws regulating shrimp imports should mirror those in place for imports of meat and eggs.
The US Customs Bureau is addressing the problems by checking and testing shrimp imports at ports around the country, with officials saying that due diligence will be expanded to other US ports in the coming months.
Many US shrimp producers had left the business over the past few years, as they were unable to compete against low import prices. In Louisiana alone, nearly 7,500 fewer shrimp producing licenses were in the state from 2002-2005.
Industry players have raised prices and adopted alternative business methods that include selling frozen products or selling the products at farmers' markets, but challenges remain.