Federal officials investigating subsidized shrimp imports

GULF OF MEXICO — The U.S. Commerce Department says it is investigating subsidies in seven nations for frozen warmwater shrimp. Gulf of Mexico shrimp processors had asked for the investigation of subsidized imports from China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“We continue to believe that the long-term survival of the entire Gulf shrimp community is at stake with this case,” said Eddy Hayes, attorney of the Coalition of Shrimp Industries, a group that had asked for the investigations. They claim that subsidies let other countries undercut local prices, hurting the industry and costing jobs.

It will be months before any decision on whether to impose duties to offset foreign subsidies, David Veal, executive director of the Coalition of Shrimp Industries, told The Times-Picayune.

The coalition formally asked for the investigations on Dec. 28.

An initial assessment found reason to investigate 117 of 133 subsidy programs alleged by the coalition, the Commerce Department said Friday. They cover frozen warm-water shrimp and prawns packed with marinade, spices or sauce. Investigators won’t look at programs for fresh, breaded, cold-water, or other types of shrimp.

The U.S. International Trade Commission will work with Commerce in examining the alleged subsidies from 2011.

Most shrimp imported in 2011 — about $1.4 billion worth — came from Thailand. Ecuador and Indonesia were next with imports worth about $512 million and $493 million respectively, according to Commerce.

It said total shrimp imports from those seven countries were worth about $4.2 billion.

A legal group formed by the Southern Shrimp Alliance, a shrimpers’ organization, has been named a party to the investigation.

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