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ผู้เขียน หัวข้อ: Foreign imports threat to catfish industry  (อ่าน 2130 ครั้ง)
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« เมื่อ: พฤศจิกายน 17, 2007, 02:33:24 PM »

Source: Bay City Tribune                                                                              World News    16/11/2007 21:43:56
                       

Judy Triplett

The Texas catfish industry has quadrupled in recent years, but foreign imports could cripple the emerging industry if the state does not move to protect the homegrown product.



“Our industry has grown over 400 percent in the last three years, but it could go away in short order if something is not done,” said Mark Kubecka, president of the privately held Texas Aquaculture Cooperative in Markham and of the Catfish Association of Texas.



“This is just not for the protection of the farm commodity that we produce, but for the food safety of all Americans.”



That is the message a handful of Matagorda County catfish growers took to Todd Staples, commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture, when he visited Bay City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture last Thursday.



Staples spoke to chamber members at a luncheon in the Bay City Civic Center.



Very little testing for banned chemicals, diseases, and antibiotics in foreign-raised seafood, including catfish, is being done by the Federal Food and Drug Administration, Kubecka said, allowing a dangerous, cheaper, lower grade product into the marketplace and on to the plates of the American consumer.



“Fish from other countries, including China, are grown with limited regulations, and with almost no enforcement to ensure a safe product,” Kubecka said.



Catfish grown in Texas fall under strict guidelines, all the way from the grow-out ponds to the processor, and then in delivery to the consumer.



The FDA has discovered that some foreign seafood growers raise fish in overcrowded, polluted, and unsanitary ponds and rivers, Kubecka said.



The fish are given antibiotics just to combat their environmental conditions and keep them alive until they can be processed and exported to other countries like the U.S.



Restaurants that are price sensitive may be buying and serving the cheaper foreign catfish, which also may be unsafe, he said.



“We are not asking for a competitive advantage, just a level playing field that protects and informs the consumer,” said Kubecka.



“At the grocery store seafood counter you can see country of origin labeling on all seafood, but currently that is not the case in restaurants. Eighty percent of the catfish consumed is this country is in restaurants, so it is important to inform consumers so they can demand that they be told where their catfish is produced.”



Texas catfish growers comply with strict Texas Commission on Environmental Quality rules for raising fish, and provide a superior product.



“That makes our product even better,” Kubecka said.



“We asked Todd Staples for support from the TDA to get the word out that Texas catfish is available, safe, and making good contributions to the economic well being of our state,” Kubecka said.



The United States government is ready to launch new rules for inspecting imports, including seafood, said Staples.



Staples asked for the catfish growers to partner with his office in developing state regulations ensuring safe imported seafood, Kubecka said.



Other catfish producing states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, have enacted laws, but importers have discovered strategies avoiding the regulations.



“We need to have rules that are fair to producers and purchasers, address consumer safety and that fill in the loopholes that compromise the integrity of our regulations,” Kubecka said.



“In efforts to help consumers identify our fish, the Texas Aquaculture Cooperative is launching a marketing program to promote a branded product called ‘Certified Texas Farm-Raised Catfish,’” Kubeck said.



“This product will allow consumers to recognize and request a safe and healthy Texas-grown product. Certified Texas is the one and only product that is 100 percent Texas farm-raised.”



The Texas catfish industry, including Matagorda, Wharton, Jackson, Calhoun and Brazoria counties, has grown in the last few years to about 3,500 acres producing 25 million pounds a year. About 40 percent of catfish eaten in the United States is consumed in Texas.



The growers agreed to meet soon with Staples in Austin to give a presentation on the economic impact of the expanding catfish industry, Kubecka said.

 
 

Source or related URL: http://www.baycitytribune.com
 
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