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Gov. Jindal meets with La. shrimpers about prices

Gov. Bobby Jindal met with Louisiana shrimpers to discuss what they say are unnaturally low prices for their product.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Gov. Bobby Jindal met with Louisiana shrimpers to discuss what they say are unnaturally low prices for their product.

Jindal joined shrimpers, elected officials and shrimp processors, for the Thursday discussion.

"They're very concerned about the possibility of the mixing of foreign and domestic shrimp then sold under a domestic label," Jindal said of the shrimpers. "We're going to ask the Department of Agriculture for enhanced inspections and increased enforcement so Louisiana shrimp won't be diluted and mixed with foreign shrimp."

The shrimpers have also gotten the attention U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, who said he'll call for congressional hearings into shrimp pricing.

Jindal said his administration has asked the state attorney general to investigate whether mixing of shrimp is occurring and look into allegations of price fixing. He said about 20 people attended the meeting, including members of his staff, shrimpers and their representatives and a handful of local elected officials from south Louisiana.

The meeting comes the week after the governor sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Shara L. Aranoff, head of the U.S. International Trade Commission, asking the two to make certain that foreign countries aren't harming Louisiana's shrimp industry.

Some in the shrimp industry said cheap Chinese shrimp are being dumped on the U.S. market.

In addition, Jindal said they planned to investigate whether state agencies "can be mandated to purchase Louisiana shrimp and other seafood if they are not already doing so."

Hundreds protested on the state Capitol steps last week, and more than a hundred showed up again on this week. They argue that the shrimp market is being manipulated to keep prices artificially low.

Some shrimpers have been on strike for over a week, complaining that they can't make a profit. They said shrimp processors are paying them 70 cents for a pound of shrimp, no matter their size — not enough to make money while diesel fuel prices are over $2 per gallon.

Terry Dickens of Cameron said with fuel prices that high, he'd need shrimp prices at $3 per pound.

"The price of fuel and the price of shrimp, it ain't adding up for us. Fuel is high, shrimp is low," said Dickens, who has not taken his boat out in about a week.

Another casualty of the industry's crisis is a prominent Grand Isle shrimp processor. Dean Blanchard resigned from the Louisiana Shrimp Association after the group asked for an investigation into allegations that processors are fixing prices.

Blanchard, however, said processors aren't the problem. He blames a flood of imported shrimp for keeping prices low.