13 July, 2004



Thailand Shrimp Industry Awaits Tariff Blow


The Thai government has been urged to accelerate measures aimed at helping local shrimp farmers maintain cost competitiveness ahead of the imminent imposition of US anti-dumping duties on Thai shrimp.


According to Panisuan Jamnarnwej, president of the Thai Frozen Foods Association, Thai shrimpers can do little more than wait until the exact anti-dumping rate to be levied by the United States on Thai products is revealed at the end of this month.


His remarks came after the US government made a preliminary ruling on Tuesday that China and Vietnam were guilty of dumping shrimp in the United States at below-market prices.


The proposed duties vary widely, from 7.6-112 percent for China and 12.11 percent to 93.13 percent for Vietnam.


The administration of US President George W. Bush will issue its final decision for the two countries in January. But the new duties will be in place by the end of the week.


The decision covers frozen and canned shrimp from China and Vietnam, which are mostly raised on farms rather than caught in the open sea.


Shrimp from China and Vietnam has accounted for about 25 percent of the shrimp imported into the United States so far this year.


But the case includes four other major exporters-Brazil, Ecuador, India and Thailand. The six countries account for 75 percent of the shrimp imported into the United States, worth $2.6 billion.


Decisions on Thailand and the other three nations will be announced by the end of this month.


Mr Panisuan added the ruling would at least clear the air over speculation on penalty rates and stabilise shrimp prices.


Since the US International Trade Commission in February unanimously ruled that imports were a factor in depressing US shrimp prices, prices of large black tiger shrimp have plunged to 155 baht per kg, down from 200 baht.


Smaller shrimp, those in the 70-pieces-per-kilo range, have fallen to 115-120 baht from 140-160 baht previously.


Southern shrimpers and processors-struggling with rock-bottom prices since 2001-filed the antidumping petition on Dec 31, seeking punitive duties on shrimp from the six nations including Thailand.


Shrimp, the most popular seafood in the United States, is dominated by foreign imports that account for 80-90 percent of the shrimp consumed in the United States.

Mr Panisuan said Thai shrimpers were still upbeat that the anti-dumping rate for Thai shrimp was expected to be lower than that for China and Vietnam. This is because Thailand has a more open shrimp trading system with produce being sold by auction and without price intervention from the state.


Likewise, Somsak Paneetatyasai, president of the Thai Shrimp Association, said Thailand's position was better than that of Vietnam and China, because the country's production system is more transparent than the other two countries.


However, in a bid to strengthen the industry in the long run, Mr Panisuan urged small operators to join together for more bargaining power against the US.


Rachane Potjanasuntorn, the Foreign Trade Department's director-general, along with a handful of officials, flew on July 4 to the United States in a last-ditch attempt to lobby members of the US Congress, consumers and shrimp feed producers, a source said.

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