Chile's Salmon Farmers: Patience Pays

By

Michael Mackey, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Lima, Peru

Published on
July 21, 2008

Chile's farmed salmon industry will increase production this year but will continue to expand in the future, despite recent sanitary problems, says Rodrigo Infante, general manager of the SalmonChile trade organization.

Admitting the industry had a lot of sanitary issues to deal with, Infante said growth this year would be "nil" but adds, "We think 2009-2010 should be a much better space with growth recovered."

Chile is churning out more value-added products, as 70 percent of its total production is value-added, and Infante says it could reach 90 percent within a decade. "I think it's very feasible," he says.

"[Value-adding] is seeing stable and steady growth. This is not a shift from last year," he says.

One example he gave was the industry using salmon skin to make wallets and other accessories. Another was the use of fish parts that are currently discarded in Chile being sold elsewhere. For example, fish heads and tails have some value in parts of Asia, such as Taiwan, where fish-lips soup is on the menu.

Seeking out new markets and consolidating others is a multi-tiered task with the American and Asian markets very much in SalmonChile's sights.

In America, the plans are ambitious and don't rest on consolidation. "We can grow so much more there," says Infante.

U.S. per capita salmon consumption is 1 kilogram annually. Americans eat some 30 kilograms of red meat and 22 kilograms of poultry annually, figures SalmonChile, which aims to compete on price as the well as the much-publicized health advantages of salmon.

The weakening world economy actually favors salmon, says Infante. He acknowledges there are rising production costs, which are an incentive to both increase efficiency and add more value, but points out that seafood has lagged behind other food sources in this regard.

Another market being targeted is Brazil, where economic growth and a large Japanese immigrant population provide bridgeheads for exports.

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