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Jun 29, 2007

U.S. ban on Chinese shrimp may help Belize

Story PictureBelizean shrimp farmers, who have suffered through several years of depressed world prices caused by low cost Asian competition, received some very good news today. Following revelations of contaminated pet food, toothpaste and toys exported from China, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned the importation of Chinese shrimp and four types of fish. According to U.S. press reports, the F.D.A. finally decided to take action after years of warnings to Chinese growers. “There’s been a continued pattern of violation with no signs of abatement”, said Dr. David Acheson, the F.D.A.’s Assistant Commissioner for food protection. Random testing of the Chinese imports has found a number of banned substances and food additives, some of which have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, while indiscriminate use of antibiotics in the feed has raised fears of creating antibiotic resistance in humans who consume the seafood.

The cut-off of Chinese shrimp exports to the United States is expected to result in increased demand and higher prices for both wild sea shrimp and farmed shrimp imported from other countries, including Belize. In the early years of this decade farmed shrimp was on its way to becoming the nation’s number one export, but low prices, disease, and a subsequent drop in production produced a shakeout in the industry in which only the most efficient producers survived. Local growers have long complained that shrimp farming operations in China, Thailand, Vietnam, and other Asian countries enjoyed an unfair advantage due to government subsidies, lax labour laws, and low sanitary standards. Under the F.D.A. ban the five types of Chinese seafood can enter the United States only if importers provide independent testing that proves each shipment is free of contaminants. Several shrimp farmers contacted by News 5 said that they are aware of the U.S. action and are optimistic, but that it is still too early to tell exactly how the market will react.

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