May 20, 2004

 

 

US State Promotes Florida Shrimp

 

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is launching a marketing campaign to encourage consumers to ask for Florida shrimp at stores.

 

Wild-caught shrimp taste better than foreign shrimp, which usually are raised in fish farms, officials said. They said buying Florida shrimp may cost a little more, but it will help save Florida's shrimping industry.

 

Florida's shrimp industry provides 4,400 jobs and contributes $97 million to the state economy, according to the department.

 

Since 2000, shrimp imports have increased dramatically from Vietnam, India, China and Brazil, according to Florida officials. An estimated 200,000 U.S. jobs have been lost because of shrimp imports.

 

The Southern Shrimp Alliance has charged that the countries are unfairly dumping shrimp into U.S. markets. The U.S. International Trade Commission in February found evidence of possible unfair practices.

 

Florida last year received $7 million from the federal government to assist the shrimping industry. Shrimpers agreed to spend $1.2 million on marketing, Bronson said.

 

"We believe we have a market for that around the country," he said. "Even right here in Florida we can sell more of it than we have."

 

Florida shrimp cost about $1 to $3 more per pound retail than imported shrimp, said Joanne McNeely, chief of the Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

 

Imported shrimp cost less, Bronson said, because shrimp farms in foreign countries do not have as much fuel, labor and other overhead costs as the U.S. shrimp industry. There are two shrimp farms in Florida-one in Clewiston and one east of Orlando.

 

Florida's wild shrimp also would not have the banned antibiotic chloramphenicol in them, Bronson said. Tons of imported shrimp, he said, have been sent back overseas because they contained chloramphenicol.

"We know we can produce a shrimp here that does not have any of those agents in it (and) that is wholesome and fresh," Bronson said.

 

National Fisheries Institute President John Connelly said last month that shrimp consumed in the United States-whether farmed or wild-caught, foreign or domestic-are safe because of government and industry efforts. He warned against attempts to use safety issues for political advantage.

 

"False statements regarding farm-raised shrimp safety could potentially damage the entire shrimp industry by undermining consumer confidence in all shrimp products," Connelly said in a written statement.

 

Bronson was simply stating the facts, said Liz Compton, public information director at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

 

"We respectfully disagree" with Connelly, Compton said.