Catching up with Colombia’s largest tilapia farmer

Published on
March 11, 2016

Establishing Colombian farm-raised finfish and seafood as the gold standard for the industry remains top-of-mind for the country’s largest tilapia farming company, PezCo.

To achieve this aim, the family-owned and operated enterprise, which is responsible for 40 percent of Colombia’s tilapia exports, has been diligently working to manage its production and distribution practices in ways that are not only highly efficient, but highly sustainable.

As of now, PezCo holds a 2-star status from the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) program, and is undergoing an audit this month in an effort to secure its third star, said the company’s COO and business development executive Juan-Carlos Libreros. What’s more, the feed firm from which PezCo sources the feed for its farms – located in Huila and Valle Del Cauca – is also in pursuit of BAP certification. If all goes well, PezCo could apply for 4-star BAP status by next year, if not by the end of this year, Libreros said.

“PezCo is firmly committed to the pillars of what being sustainable means,” Libreros told SeafoodSource during the 2016 Seafood Expo North America (SENA) event held in Boston 6 to 8 March.

That commitment covers areas of food safety, animal welfare, environmental responsibility, social responsibility and traceability, said Libreros. “We live and breathe each one of those. For us, it’s a must," he said.

The tilapia aqua-farming facilities united under the PezCo name have been operating in the Colombian aquaculture space for 27 years, with more than 200 employees now processing products to be distributed to the company’s international markets, particularly the United States. With Colombia second to only Honduras in exporting fresh fillets to the U.S., PezCo has been able to capitalize on a thriving, niche market, shipping out approximately 15,000 pounds of fresh tilapia fillets per day.

It doesn’t look like demand for tilapia will be waning anytime soon, especially in the U.S., according to Libreros.

“If you look at the seafood consumption in the U.S., some of the most consumed items are shrimp, salmon and tilapia. And if you look at how each of those three are growing, tilapia is the fastest growing. There’s more and more consumption [of tilapia] for many reasons – it’s very mild, so you can eat and prepare it in many different ways; it also has great nutritious value; and it’s very affordable when compared to other choices,” he said.

In addition to Nile and Red tilapia products, PezCo sells rainbow trout and Vannamei shrimp, which the company does thanks in part to an arrangement with the Colombian government that establishes PezCo as a Colombian commercial office for the aquaculture industry. Moving forward, Liberors said PezCo would like to look into value-adds as well as growing the company’s portfolio with respect to the other species it sells.

PezCo has an office in St. Petersburg, Fla., and production facilities in Antioquia, Atlantico, Huila and Valle del Cauca, Colombia.

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