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Editor's Note: International sourcing a must

By Fiona Robinson, Editor in Chief
October 01, 2006

I ran across an interesting news story about Gulf shrimp as this issue of SeaFood Business went to press. "Shrimp prices," a Sept. 17 article in the Alabama Press Register, was the first accurate mainstream-press portrayal of the state of the domestic shrimp industry - and it didn't slam shrimp imports from Asia and South America.

The article noted that some people in the Gulf are beginning to realize that imports aren't the main reason domestic shrimp prices are so low. Of course, this realization has hit after U.S. shrimpers filed an antidumping petition that slapped tariffs on imported shrimp in 2005. The article also bore out what many in the industry had predicted: that the imported shrimp supply would gradually shift to breaded product to bypass the tariff on raw product.

This article hit home because much of what has been said and written about imported shrimp since tariffs were imposed has not been good. For example, we're told (wrongly) that imported farmed shrimp is all raised using harmful antibiotics banned in the United States. Imported shrimp suffered a double whammy when Country of Origin Labeling went into effect last year, placing even more emphasis on seafood's birthplace.

Thankfully, most consumers don't care where their seafood comes from. They don't know farmed salmon is Atlantic salmon and that it hails from Canada, South America or Europe. They just want to know how much it costs at a restaurant or how to prepare it at home.

Consumers aren't aware that the seafood buyers who provide fish for menus and seafood cases have to be globetrotters. Since the 1980s, chain buyers sourcing large volumes of seafood at a reasonable price have had to go to Asia or elsewhere.

"Passport to procurement," this issue's Top Story by Associate Editor Steven Hedlund, examines the growing trend of chain buyers and suppliers setting up shop overseas to control costs and monitor quality. The story details how trade and harvesting policies affect global seafood sourcing and explains how innovation in preservation and processing technology has extended seafood's reach. As eight out of the top 10 seafoods in the United States, based on per capita consumption, rely heavily on imported supplies, many SFB readers will find this a compelling story.

This Top Story is also the launching point for SeaFood Business ' 2007 focus on international sourcing. We'll be reporting on the seafood industry in countries that have been in the spotlight recently, such as Vietnam, as well as some that have contributed to the U.S. seafood supply for decades, such as eastern Canada.

As always, we welcome your thoughts.



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