Aquaculture’s future rests with buyers
Editor’s note: SeaFood Business Associate Publisher and Editor Fiona Robinson attended this week’s 2011 Global Outlook for Aquaculture Leadership (GOAL) conference in Santiago, Chile. Here’s her fourth in a series of reports from the annual event.
The future of the aquaculture industry lies with buyers who wield the power to make change. This was the message given to attendees on Wednesday, the final day of the 2011 Global Outlook on Aquaculture Leadership (GOAL) conference held at the Grand Hyatt in Santiago, Chile.
Dr. Albert Zeufack, director of research and investment strategy for Khazanah Nasional Berhad, a Malaysian wealth fund associated with the World Bank, warned GOAL attendees that a tragedy looms if buyers become complacent with sustainability standards for farmed seafood.
“The natural reaction is for buyers to say ‘let’s lower standards to cut costs,’” he said. “Buyers’ leadership is critical in managing success. If you lose sight, that would inevitably lead to a race to the bottom and destruction of the [aquaculture] industry.”
Zeufack said seafood buyers have the power to do several things, including influencing production processes worldwide through adoption of certification; influencing the direction and sustainability of aquaculture businesses; helping the industry diversify to new regions; improving disease control by encouraging individual farms to participate in regional health-management programs; and engaging government and lending institutions.
Later in the morning, two panels of buyers were moderated by Peter Redmond, VP of development for the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s (GAA) Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) program; GAA sponsored the event. A recurring challenge was harmonization of sustainability certification schemes.
“It’s extremely important to set foundation across the industry. As an industry we need to establish a common base first,” said Bob Fields, senior director for fresh meat, seafood and gourmet deli for Sam’s Club, a division of Walmart.
One of the major impediments is engaging participation of small suppliers like shrimp farms in several certifications, said Jeff Sedacca, president of the shrimp division at National Fish and Seafood, a division of Pacific Andes. “It becomes financially impossible. To see harmonization would be a benefit,” he said.
The harmonization theme was also mentioned in another buyer panel by Roger Bing, VP of seafood purchasing at Darden Restaurants.
“Within these economic times, consumer has limited disposable income. But when it comes to sustainability, what is required is harmonization. We need to look at what costs can be taken out of the equation. It’s inefficient. It’s time for the industry to stand up and harmonize the schemes in place,” said Bing. “How do we make the supply chain more efficient? There are ways to take costs out.”
Click on the headlines to view Robinson’s three other reports from Santiago: