Statement by Wally Stevens
Shrimp Price Increases Will Hurt American Consumers and Businesses
Thank you all for joining us today. I am Wally Stevens, President of the American Seafood Distributors Association and Chairman of the ASDA/CITAC Shrimp Task Force. I have worked in — and for — the seafood industry for more than 30 years. In addition to my ASDA duties, I serve as President and Chief Operating Officer of Slade Gorton Company, a seafood distribution and marketing solutions company headquartered in Boston .
The Shrimp Task Force brings together concerned grocers, restaurants, processors, distributors, business councils, U.S. exporters, and other consuming groups, to assure that the U.S. government considers all the facts in the shrimp anti-dumping case fairly and objectively, with a full understanding of the ramifications of any decision on all American interests.
Today, The Task Force is releasing statistical analyses that underscore the benefits of shrimp imports to consumers, and the impact that the proposed antidumping duties — which are food taxes — will have on shrimp prices and shrimp consumption.
The findings of the Trade Partnership study on the impact of these taxes on shrimp prices should concern American consumers and those businesses that supply food to our nation's tables. While other antidumping cases have resulted in taxes being applied to seafood products, we have never seen a case of this magnitude before. For this reason, many companies in the food business as well as organizations that represent consumers are greatly concerned about the potential negative effects of taxes on shrimp.
As Trade Partnership President Laura Baughman will explain in a moment, if these taxes are imposed, prices could soar as high as 44 percent.
Most concerning of all to those of us affiliated with the restaurant and seafood industries, the Trade Partnership study shows that such price hikes could lead to a one-third drop in shrimp consumption.
The Trade Partnership also undertook an analysis of shrimp sales at grocery stores and other retail outlets, revealing a significant expansion in sales in the last seven years. Laura will later discuss how shrimp imports have increased shrimp consumption among all income groups.
We are very pleased to be joined on the call by Diane Fox, President of Food Beat, Inc., the nation’s leading provider of menu analysis and related trend information to the food industry. Diane is one of the foremost experts in this country on restaurant trends. Representatives of the petitioners have attempted to use selected excerpts from previous Food Beat reports to justify their attempts to place a new food tax on consumers. Diane is here today to give you the results of a study of menus of the 200 largest chain restaurants in the United States . Her study provides a full picture of the incredible expansion of shrimp availability at restaurants — from quick service to upscale restaurants — made possible by shrimp imports.
We applaud Food Beat and the Trade Partnership for their work in quantifying the benefits that shrimp imports have provided to consumers and consuming industries, and the damage that we have long suspected will be done by these unwarranted and unjustified food taxes. It is plain from the work being presented here today that the livelihoods of many workers will be affected by this threatened trade action and that duties may put shrimp out of reach of million of American families. We don’t intend to let this happen, and we will continue to fight on behalf of the hundreds of thousand of Americans employed by shrimp consuming industries and their millions of customers who have made shrimp America’s #1 seafood.
Now, let’s turn to Laura for a discussion of the study by The Trade Partnership.
Thank you, Laura. It’s time now to hear from Diane Fox of Food Beat. Several months ago, the American Seafood Distributors asked Diane to conduct in-depth research into the expansion of shrimp items on American menus. Let's turn this over to Diane to present her findings.
Thank you, Diane. And finally, Laura Baughman will conclude this portion of the call by briefly discussing the findings of the study by The Trade Partnership on the effects of food taxes at retail grocery stores.
Thank you, Laura and Diane for the fine work your organizations have done to bring clarity to this issue.
What we have heard today from The Trade Partnership and from Food Beat, Inc., can be summarized in three key points:
- Shrimp imports have made it possible for American consumers from all income brackets to buy this once-expensive item — and have led to a 47 percent expansion of menu offerings at US restaurants, making shrimp widely available on menus and in retail grocery stores at a price the average person can afford.
- A tax on shrimp will send prices soaring as high as 44 percent, making it once again out of reach for consumers and —
- More worrisome for those of us in the food business — such a price hike will lead to a one-third drop in consumption.
Our goal today is to provide a forum for those of you who are reporting on this issue to help set the record straight. Thank you for joining us.