13 Aug 2013
Misguided tariffs – again
Ecuador was just slapped with an 11.68% average duty on farmed shrimp that they import into the US. Duties on imported farmed seafood make no sense. There is not a significant shrimp farming industry in the US and there never will be. The wild fishery is, like everybody else that has shrimp to sell, benefiting from the current disease problem that has seriously impacted shrimp farming in China, Thailand and Vietnam. Prices are at record highs as demand far exceeds supply.
To blame any of the fisheries problems on imported shrimp, is in my opinion, naïve. Diesel prices are sky high and the cost of fishing is concomitantly high. Their solution lies in marketing their product as a US wild caught product and positioning it in a manner similar to what Alaska has been very successful in doing with wild salmon. Wild salmon prices are typically higher than farmed salmon prices and some of the runs, such as the Copper River run, command sky-high prices. Farmed shrimp will almost always cost less than wild caught shrimp.
This ill thought out punitive action will come right out of consumer’s pockets in the US, although Ecuador can easily shift their focus elsewhere since the demand is so high out of SE Asia. Shortages are so dire that many processing plants are buying whatever they can in the open market and reprocessing the material and selling it as locally produced. The irony in this is that Ecuadorean product could find its way on to consumer’s shelves in the US through this route for less than importing direct might cost.
As with my last blog about political machinations based on opinion interfering with a legitimate regulatory process we are seeing the same type of approach to governing with these tariffs. These types of tariffs have been shown time and time again to accomplish little if anything and they are clearly political in nature. Even if it is possible to show that less expensive imported farmed shrimp is somehow hurting the financial interests of the warm water shrimp fishery in the US, where is the impact of by-catch being considered in all of this? Trawling for shrimp is not a benign fishing practice and there can be considerable damage done to benthic ecosystems. This is no secret and while the shrimp fishery is a very important source of regional income in parts of the US, a truthful, open and fact based assessment would not have resulted in punitive tariffs.
Submitted by Stephen Newman, AquaInTech Inc.
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