How Much is that Shrimp in the Window (and where is it from)?
Marine ecosystems and coastal areas around the world have been and are being transformed as U.S. shrimp imports from Asia surge. This is part of a broader expansion of “farming the sea.” According to NOAA’s Fishwatch.gov:
…worldwide aquaculture production has grown annually by 8.3 percent since 1970, making it the fastest growing form of food production in the world. Currently about half of the world’s seafood comes from aquaculture, and this percentage is projected to increase.
And global aquaculture production is mostly from China and nearby Asian countries:
Asia dominates global aquaculture production, accounting for 89 percent of global production. China alone accounts for 62 percent of global aquaculture production. (Source)
I wanted to write a short post about a small aquaponics firm producing shrimp indoors. But shrimp production, transportation, consumption and politics turns out to be a large and complex topic.
Though China and nearby countries are the center of aquaculture production, it turns out that India is a large and growing player, exporting nearly 550 tonnes of frozen shrimp to the U.S. (apparently from April-December, 2010). Thats a lot of shrimp and has attracted regulators and lawyers to accuse India of “dumping” shrimp on U.S. consumers. India’s Business Standard reports the story here.
One has to wonder why Indian shrimp producers would raise, process, freeze, then ship shrimp to the U.S. to sell at below their cost of production. Are Indians just generous people sacrificing their time to help Americans have access to lower-cost shrimp? (The key claim is that governments are subsidizing shrimp producers, allowing them to lower costs and gain market share overseas.)
Shrimp-dumping judges voted 5-1 in favor of keeping duties (or taxes) on Indian shrimp imported to the U.S.:
…the US Department of Commerce (DoC) announced the preliminary results of the fifth administrative review (AR) of the anti-dumping duty. The average duty for India was reduced to 1.69 per cent from 2.67 per cent.
Shrimp import duties were enacted in 2004 and in 2009 extended again.
However, though 550 tonnes of shrimp seems like a lot for India to send to the U.S., this May 9, 2013 Undercurrents article reports:
India’s production increase is unlikely completely to make up for this year’s global shrimp supply deficit, considering even at its high production level, it had imported 17,443 metric tons of product into the US in the first quarter of the year,
From 550 tonnes in a half-year to 17,500 metric tons in a quarter? That’s even more shrimp from India. Lots of shrimp are from Ecuador too, with imports surging by nearly 20% in early 2013. Imports are down from Thailand and China, apparently.
However, if you want local shrimp and you live in Las Vegas, you can buy shrimp from Blue Oasis. This firm draws salt water, with permission, from the Salton Sea and has aquaponics operations 30 miles from Las Vegas. Here is a Seattle Times article on Blue Oasis. More on the firm and their shrimp production process is on the company website.
And if you want even more local shrimp and prawns, you can apparently raise them in your backyard, as explained in this YouTube video on home Prawn aquaculture.
As a final note on this shrimp discussion, after coffee with my father where I discussed Indian frozen shrimp imports and Blue Oasis shrimp: my father insists that the very best shrimp comes from the Gulf of Mexico, and only the Gulf of Mexico.
News from the shrimp business in the Gulf though seems to center on legal action against foreign companies accused of “dumping” shrimp on U.S. consumers. See: “Gulf of Mexico shrimp subsidy case moves forward despite blow” (May, 29, 2013)
The Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries filed petitions on Dec. 28 seeking relief from the various Chinese, Ecuadorian, Indian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese imports. The investigation into 2011 subsidies could lead to the imposition of “countervailing duties,” duties imposed to offset subsidies on shrimp by foreign governments.
foreign governments in the seven biggest importing countries have engaged in unfair trade by giving more than $13.5 billion in subsidies to their shrimp industries since 2009. (source)
To investigate the issues Department of Commerce officials “now will travel to the foreign countries to verify the subsidies that have been reported; its final determinations are due Aug. 13.”
Travel to China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Ecuador will be hard work, but somebody apparently has to do it.