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Shrimpers struggling to find buyers

The U.S. is on pace to bring in more than 2 billion pounds of cheaper imported shrimp this year.

NEW ORLEANS — Lafitte Frozen Foods in Violet can process up to 120 thousand pounds of shrimp per day. 

Friday was the plant’s last day of operation, at least for now. 

“This is the first time we’ve ever had to actually say hold it, we’ve got to take a break,” company VP Bobby “Capt. Bob” Samanie said. 

His freezers are full, but few are buying right now Samanie added. 

“We have so much problem with foreign shrimp coming in, it’s killing us.” 

The U.S. is on pace to bring in more than 2 billion pounds of cheaper imported shrimp this year.

According to Samanie, the country only consumes about 1.2 billion pounds a year.

With fewer and fewer places to sell his product, shrimp sits in cold storage until they can find a buyer. 

Local shrimpers like Ricky Robin say when factories start to shut down – the ripple effect is crushing. 

“When they hurt the factories, they hurt the commercial fishermen that sells to the factories,” Robin said. “We’re getting something like a dollar a pound at the factory. The shrimp should be worth 3-4 dollars a pound. Three or four months ago they were.” 

Robin wants Louisiana to ban imported shrimp like it did a few years ago with foreign crawfish. 

He says with factories closing and the high price of fuel, many St. Bernard Parish shrimpers are getting out of the business. 

Robin maintains foreign shrimp may be cheaper but it’s not as tasty as the ones caught off the Louisiana coast. 

“When you’re eating imported shrimp, you really don’t know where they came from to start with. When you look at them, they’re beautiful. But when you look at Louisiana shrimp they don’t look as good because they got more flavor in them.” 

Lafitte Frozen Foods is now hoping to find some additional cold storage and make some good sales. That would allow them to start buying shrimp again, as early as next week. 

“It’s killing me because this is not what we do,” Samanie said. “I’m born and raised in the shrimp factory. When the season’s on we work. We work shrimp. For me to have to stop because there’s no room, is something that’s never happened before.” 

According to the Louisiana Shrimp Association, about 80 percent of the restaurants in the state serve imported shrimp.


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