Change afoot in processing
Even before the Great Recession came along, U.S. seafood processors weathered tough times. For many years, the main story in processing was the shift of big operations from the United States to Asia, particularly China. It was a shift caused, in part, by a labor force so inexpensive that companies saved money by shipping fish caught in domestic waters halfway around the world for processing and back again to be sold in the United States.
Recently there has been another shift in the seafood processing industries overseas. Rising prosperity has brought with it growing labor costs in Asia and an emerging middle class not as eager to stand in a cold fish factory, performing the same monotonous task all day, like peeling shrimp. Consequently, those increased labor costs have created an overnight demand for equipment.
“Our business is booming, and there’s a greatly increased demand for our equipment in Asia and South and Central America,” says Frank Heurich, president of Gregor Jonsson, a manufacturer of shrimp-peeling equipment in Lake Forest, Ill.
In India, demand for equipment is also being fueled by higher production forecasts, says Heurich. In the past year, aquaculture facilities have been importing broodstock for vannamei, which grows faster than black tiger shrimp.
“Asia’s particularly interesting because labor costs have traditionally been pretty low,” says Heurich. To comply with that demand, Gregor Jonsson doubled its production this year, and will double it again next year.
Two of the company’s recent innovations respond to an industry demand for more value-added products, including a new model that peels the shrimp but leaves the tail and vein intact, and another that will peel the shrimp and make several different styles of butterfly cuts. This equipment is not all going abroad, either.
Click here to read to rest of the feature on processing equipment, which appeared in the September issue of SeaFoodBusiness magazine.