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Photo: Rizhao Meijia Group

US expands ban on Chinese seafood

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Tuesday, June 18, 2024, 07:00 (GMT + 9)

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has added another major Chinese seafood processor to its list of companies banned from exporting to the US due to forced labor concerns while closing the door on a major source of processed Argentine red shrimp.

Shandong Meijia Group Co., Ltd. (also known as Rizhao Meijia Group) has been added to the "entity list" maintained under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), the DHS Task Force said Tuesday.

Two subsidiaries of Shandong Meijia Group Rizhao Meijia Aquatic Foodstuff Co. and Rizhao Meijia Keyuan Food Co. are active exporters of Argentine red shrimp to clients in the USA and Canada.

The DHS announcement hints at expanding plans to increase the share of seafood, shoes, and aluminum products produced in China using forced labor.

“With today's enforcement action, we demonstrate once again that the United States is taking concrete steps to keep goods produced with forced labor out of U.S. supply chains,” Robert Silvers, undersecretary for policy and chairman of the Labor Council, said in a statement. groups.

Recall that in 2023, a report by the independent journalist organization The Outlaw Ocean Project, published in The New Yorker magazine, found that Chinese seafood factories use the forced labor of workers from the Muslim Uyghur minority, who were allegedly forcibly removed from their home province to produce value-added products, which were then sold to large customers in Europe and North America.

The Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA), a trade association that represents harvesters and processors of U.S.-farmed shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast Coast, asked DHS earlier this year to add eight Chinese seafood processing plants, including Shandong Meijia Group and its subsidiaries Rizhao Jiayuan Food Co. and Rizhao Meijia Keyuan Food Co., to the UFLPA's list of entities, according to Undercurrent News.

The US is becoming more and more a fan of wild-caught Argentine red shrimp, importing 31.5 million pounds in 2023, although volumes have been declining since 2020, when the US imported 38.2 million pounds.

The SSA audit found that as much as 12 million pounds (32%) of that amount was processed in China, although the country of origin label still shows Argentina, said attorney Nathan Ricard, a partner at Picard. Kentz & Rowe, in Washington, D.C., which represents SSA.

Since January 2023, more than 265 containers of Argentine shrimp have been shipped to the U.S. by Chinese exporters, the SSA said in its previous letter to DHS. The product competes for sales with pink shrimp caught in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic, according to the SSA.

“These wild-caught shrimp were sold as sushi in restaurants and retail grocery stores throughout the United States with no indication that they may have been packaged in Chinese seafood processing plants using Uyghur labor,” it says. in a statement from the SSA released Tuesday.

Ricard told Undercurrent that it is unclear why Argentine shrimp traveled all the way to China for processing before being shipped to the US. He added that product descriptions used in 2024 have become more vague and Argentine shrimp processed in China are more difficult to identify.

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