Louisiana's $100 million crawfish industry was given an immediate shot in the arm July 15. That shot, in the form of renewed tariffs on Chinese crawfish tail meat, was welcome news to an industry that has been severely impacted by cheaper Chinese imports.

“Without this positive vote, the Louisiana crawfish industry would have been dead in the water,” said Bob Odom, Louisiana commissioner of agriculture and forestry. “This means that the sunset review process on the tariff issue is over, and we have won.”

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) voted unanimously (4-0) in renewing the anti-dumping order for five years.

The genesis for the latest ruling was a 1996 petition (approved in 1997) filed by Odom and crawfish processors. Alleging that Chinese crawfish was being dumped in American markets at half the cost of Louisiana crawfish, the petition asked for relief.

Such relief was needed, said the industry, because from 1993 through 1996 Chinese dumping had caused the U.S. market for crawfish tail meat to plummet 80 percent. This, in turn, caused some 60 Louisiana crawfish processors to be closed or scaled back.

“The (ITC) made the right decision,” said Congressman Chris John of Crowley, La.

“One of my first efforts as a new member of Congress in 1997 was to lobby the ITC to place tariffs on Chinese crawfish. That was round one.

“Today's victory in round two further justifies our fight and upholds the importance of this valuable south Louisiana industry. Crawfish provides more than $100 million annually to our local economies. It's part of our rich heritage and we'll fight for its survival.”

Recently, the U.S. Customs Service has been focusing more on bonding requirements for the Chinese. This too has also made a positive impact, says Odom. “In the last year (the Customs Service) has beefed up its surveillance and enforcement of the $50,000 bond requirement.

“Now that new tail meat-importing companies are posting the bond, they're much less likely to fudge or circumvent the tariff.”

Attempting to work around the U.S. tariffs has led Chinese importers to a variety of questionable methods. Among them: claiming third-party countries as original importers and using front companies.

The ITC vote coupled with the U.S. Custom Service's narrowing focus on the importers should keep the heat on.

The tariffs on Chinese imports will vary widely — from 7.53 percent to 223.01 percent. Reportedly, most imports will face duties around 200 percent.


e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com