Chile battles back with plans for growth

Americans love their salmon — placing it behind just shrimp and canned tuna on the most popular seafood list — and import the farmed variety from various countries around the world.

In 2010 the United States imported more than 166 million pounds of whole farmed fish and fillets from Canada, about 47 million pounds of fillets from Chile, almost 20 million pounds from the Faroe Islands, nearly 50 million pounds of fillets from Norway and about 30 million pounds of farmed whole and filleted salmon from the United Kingdom.

The big farmed salmon news in recent years has been the supply from Chile: Imports from the country have been down, after averaging around 175 million pounds imported from the United States between 2005 to 2008. But now, having put the dire effects of the infectious salmon anemia (ISA) outbreak behind it, Chilean farmed salmon producers are looking to regain a dominant position in the industry.

“When ISA hit Chile, we cleaned out our pens and took a wait-and-see attitude,” says Bert Bachmann, VP and general manager for Camanchaca in Miami. “No smolt went into the water until last September.”

Now, he says, “we have a strong growth plan” and despite only modest fourth-quarter expectations, the company’s production should be in the 30,000- to 40,000-metric-ton range by 2012 and 2013. Bachmann isn’t too concerned that previous customers may have moved on. “We were in the market for a long time and had developed relationships,” he explains. Plus, Camanchaca supplies many of those same customers with other seafood, such as mussels, “so we have retained the relationship.”

Farmed salmon has always had a niche, says Bachmann, even in the Northwest where wild salmon is plentiful. “The issue for most consumers is, if it looks good, and the retailer supports it, then most people will accept it,” he says.

Click here to read the rest of the feature on farmed salmon, which appeared in the September issue of SeaFood Business magazine. 


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