US seafood companies, including Trident, Pacific Seafoods, High Liner, Cargill, Cooke and Fortune International, have written to the Trump administration requesting urgent support in light of the global coronavirus outbreak that has decimated the foodservice sector, in particular.
The letter, signed by 84 seafood executives from all parts of the supply chain, requests a raft of measures including expanding US Department of Agriculture funding levels by at least $2 billion (€1.9 billion); providing $1.5 billion (€1.4 billion) in relief for fishery disasters caused by federal, state and local government responses to the coronavirus outbreak; and a $500 million (€463.5 million) government program to buy surplus seafood and ship it overseas or to domestic organizations.
"Failure to do so risks unprecedented decline in essential economic activity that will severely affect both workers and our nation’s ability to continue feeding itself," the letter states.
"The economic disruption caused by forced restaurant closures and active encouragement for Americans to 'shelter in place' ... extend far beyond the foodservice sector. There is a direct line from those temporarily shuttered businesses to the food distribution chain that supports them; the companies and workers who harvest, farm, prepare, process, package, and distribute the food products that we produce in our country."
The Department of Homeland Security listed seafood workers as “essential critical infrastructure workers” in a March 19 memo.
Some 68 percent of the $102.2 billion (€94.7 billion) that consumers paid for seafood in 2017 was spent at foodservice establishments.
"As a result, in many fisheries, the sudden near shutdown of restaurants and other storefronts has caused demand to evaporate overnight, threatening the continued economic viability of the entire supply chain. This could mean the loss of tens of thousands of well-paying jobs," write the execs.
"In those fisheries where demand remains intact, the greatest ongoing challenge will be to make sure employers have state and local support for undergoing testing, screening, and potential quarantine protocols needed to ensure a healthy workforce.
"Once lost, a supply chain and the infrastructure that supports it can be exceptionally difficult and costly to restart. Failure to act boldly now to preserve our country’s domestic seafood infrastructure will impose far greater costs on our economy and cause permanent damage to our nation’s ability to harvest, farm, process, and distribute seafood products."
America's domestic food distribution network produces nearly $700 billion (€648.9 billion) in revenue annually, according to the letter, and employs nearly 1.5 million workers.
The value of specialty crops annually is about $65 billion (€60.3 billion), and the value of processed seafood products is about $12 billion (€11.1 billion) annually.