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NEWS RELEASE 98-006; FEBRUARY 12, 1998
February 12, 1998
News Release 98-006
CANNED FISH INDUSTRY DEALS WITH FOREIGN COMPETITION,
TIGHT RESOURCE CONSTRAINTS
The U.S. canned fish industry, producing canned tuna and other popular seafoods, faces strong
competition from foreign rivals in domestic and international markets, says the U.S.
International Trade Commission (ITC) in its report Industry and Trade Summary: Canned
Fish, Except Shellfish.
In addition, a variety of biological and legal constraints on the availability of raw fish to
canneries affected production and trade during 1992-96, the years covered by the report. The
principal products covered in the publication include tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel.
The ITC, an independent, nonpartisan, factfinding agency, recently released the report as part
of an ongoing series of reports on thousands of products imported into and exported from the
United States. Highlights from the report include:
- U.S. production of canned fish of all types in 1996 reached 414 thousand metric tons,
valued at $1.3 billion, an increase of 14 percent in volume and 5 percent in value from
1992 production. The principal product is canned tuna, making up almost three-
quarters of total canned fish production; salmon accounts for another 22 percent.
- During 1992-96, U.S. exports of canned fish fell to 65 thousand metric tons valued at
$214 million in 1996, a decline of 23 percent in volume and 28 percent in value from
1992 levels. As a share of total value of production, U.S. exports of canned fish
declined from 24 percent in 1992 to 17 percent in 1996. Salmon is the principal
product exported, accounting for 71 percent of the total.
- U.S. consumption of canned fish reached 526 thousand metric tons valued at
$1.58 billion in 1996, an increase of 7 percent in volume and 10 percent in value from
total consumption in 1992.
- As a share of consumption, imports ranged from 29 percent to 35 percent during 1992-
96. Total imports in 1996 reached 177 thousand metric tons valued at $499 million.
Canned tuna made up the bulk of such trade, with 1996 imports of 127 thousand metric
tons valued at $319 million. Sardines accounted for an additional 10 percent of total
- Resource constraints are a growing problem for the U.S. industry. Depletion of fishery
resources in U.S. waters and around the world causes scarcity in supplies of raw
material and drives up costs and prices of canned output. An example is Pacific
salmon, whose abundance has been reduced not only by fishing but by dams and
industrial development that interfere with spawning patterns. Another resource
constraint is the reduced availability of raw albacore and tropical tunas following the
imposition in the early 1990s of U.S. and UN restrictions on the use of harvesting
methods that harm dolphins and other marine mammals.
- Customs treatment of canned fish in international trade was enhanced by the Uruguay
Round Agreements negotiated under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
These agreements resulted in improved mechanisms for ensuring that product safety
regulations and other measures are not used by importing nations as trade barriers to
U.S. canned fish exports, and they resulted in the binding of tariffs against future
increase, thereby reducing uncertainty for U.S. exporters in international markets.
The foregoing information is from the ITC report Industry and Trade Summary: Canned Fish,
Except Shellfish (USITC Publication 3083, January 1998).
ITC Industry and Trade Summary reports include information on product uses, U.S. and
foreign producers, and tariff treament of the products being studied; they analyze the basic
factors affecting trends in consumption, production, and trade of the commodities, as well as
factors bearing on the competitiveness of the U.S. industry in domestic and foreign markets.
Reports are available for downloading from the ITC's Internet server at http://www.usitc.gov.
A printed copy may be requested by calling 202-205-1809 or by writing the Office of the
Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20436.
Requests may be faxed to 202-205-2104.
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