With a potential termination of tariffs on Thai shrimp, the U.S. shrimp market could get interesting. Without a tax on imports from the United States' No. 1 supplier, as the Southern Shrimp Alliance and the Thai Frozen Food Association (TFFA) have reportedly agreed upon, Thailand could cement its standing at the top.

That possibility makes the domestic shrimp industry uneasy. Even with the tariff, shrimp imports from Thailand in November increased 9.5 percent from the previous year.

What's more, TFFA reported in December that Thai seafood exports would grow by 2.2 percent this year. It seems Americans can't get enough Thai shrimp — or shrimp in general. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization reported in January that U.S. demand for shrimp is likely to remain stable until the economy rebounds.

China and Ecuador also ramped up November shrimp exports to the United States by 18.4 percent and 19.9 percent, respectively. Imports that month from Vietnam, on the other hand, dropped 32 percent. Imports from Mexico were down 17 percent in November, a key production period for the country.

Through the first 11 months of 2009, overall U.S. shrimp imports were down 3 percent but still eclipsed the 1-billion-pound mark again.

Supplies of larger shrimp are tight and in high demand, said one industry insider, leaving bargains for smaller sizes.

In mid-January, shell-on, headless Pacific whites (Penaeus vannamei) from Asia were priced in the mid-USD 4 range for 16-20s; high-USD 3 range for 21-25s; mid-USD 3 range for 26-30s; low-USD 3 range for 31-35s; and less than USD 3 a pound for smaller sizes. Tack on an extra USD 0.50 per pound for easy-peel whites.

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