MS lawmakers want equal playing field for domestic and imported shrimp

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Mississippi Lawmakers were in Washington Tuesday advocating for the Gulf Coast shrimping industry. According to the Department of Commerce, several foreign countries were selling shrimp to the U.S. for much better prices than buyers could get it here locally.

Many foreign countries give their shrimp industries money to help harvest their shrimp, but here in the U.S. that's not the case which is why domestic shrimpers have to sell their harvests for more. What state lawmakers are advocating for is that taxes on imported shrimp be high enough that local shrimpers can at least be on an equal playing field.

Taxes on imported shrimp have expired, putting domestic shrimpers in a tough situation, with imported shrimp already costing a little less than local shrimp. According to business manager at Quality Poultry and seafood, it could be even cheaper if those taxes are not put back in place.

"Foreign countries take that lower cost product, bring it over to the U.S., sell it on our markets. While our guys are out having to work, fight fuel prices and our government doesn't do that for them so they're up against unfair competition," said Gunkel.

Congressman Steven Palazzo is urging the international trade commission to continue investigating foreign trade policies.

"What was once a truly American industry and the very life blood of the Gulf Coast, is being stolen by importers who essentially cheat to gain market share," said Palazzo.

Now what those trade rules entail are that tariffs on imported shrimp would remain the same so that domestic shrimpers could continue to be on a level playing field.

Gunkel says if the tariffs don't remain in place, it could be devastating for South Mississippi shrimpers.

"We are charging I think six or seven cents somewhere in that range on each pound of shrimp that came into make up for that difference and that's gone away. Now the unfair advantage is great again for those foreign people coming in," said Gunkel.

The commission will make a final decision on September 19 as to whether foreign subsidies have hurt America's domestic shrimp market. They will also decide whether taxes will be applied to level the playing field.

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