The Catfish Dispute

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“The Catfish Dispute”
The United States is a leader in the Vietnamese catfish industry and, in 2001, produced 597 million pounds of catfish. Catfish is a particularly popular dish in the southern states of the United States and produced domestically in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana in man-made freshwater ponds. Although the U.S. is clearly one of the top producers in the market, Vietnamese catfish importers have been causing problems for the United States’ domestic catfish industry.

Vietnamese catfish importers saw an opportunity to capture market share and took it. The U.S. domestic catfish industry had worked to expand the market with significant effort and investment and believed the Vietnamese importers actions unfair. At the end of 2001, the U.S. was importing seven million pounds of catfish from Vietnam which caused the price of catfish to fall to 50 cents per pound in the U.S., 15 cents lower than the cost of production. This led to U.S. producers blaming Vietnamese importers for the fall in prices and for threatening more than 15,000 jobs in the poorer parts of Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Although it seems unfair to the United States catfish producers, Vietnamese catfish importers are not completely at fault. The U.S. producers expanded their inventories and limited the supply of catfish to only a few states, thus, driving down prices themselves. Vietnamese catfish importers saw the market share opportunity and took it. Their share in the market could lead to increased trade between the U.S. and Vietnam, a stalling of potential trade wars, and improved relations between the two countries as well.

One of the other issues surrounding the Vietnamese catfish importers is the quality of the product. U.S. catfish producers attempted to convince the public that Vietnamese catfish are of low quality and raised in dirty waters that possibly contain toxins. Catfish imported from Vietnam have to only meet FDA approval. U.S. raised catfish, in...
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