Chile wants even bigger share of US salmon market

The booth representing several Chilean companies at Seafood Expo North America

The Chilean salmon-farming sector sees the United States as an important and growing market, as the country’s shipments of salmon and other seafood to the U.S. continue to increase.

The dominance of salmon in Chile’s export market is hard to understate, with the species representing the second-largest export in the country, only behind copper. In 2021, the country exported USD 5.2 billion (EUR 4.7 billion) worth of salmon and trout, increasing over 2020.

ProChile Commercial Director Christopher Desplas told SeafoodSource during Seafood Expo North America that the industry is working hard to maintain and even grow its exports to the U.S. ProChile is Chile’s government-run export promotion bureau within Chile's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The industry has been working very very strongly to increase its promotion of Chilean salmon in the U.S. market,” Desplas said.

Desplas said logistical issues created by the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic remain among the top challenges for Chile's salmon exporters, especially given the country's relatively remote geographic location. However, its remoteness gives it some advantages, Desplas said.

“We know that it’s a country that is far away from the major centers of consumption. But the routes are very well-connected between Chile and the United States. A container takes around 21 days to reach both coasts," Desplas said.

Desplas said, overall, Chile's salmon exporters have successfully navigated the logistical challenges they've faced over the past year.

“I think the industry was able to take these challenges and work very well, and that’s one of the reasons why last year most of the seafood exports from Chile to the U.S. actually increased,” he said.

The U.S. took in 44 percent of Chile’s salmon production in 2021, more than double the next-highest export destination of Japan. Chile's salmon industry expects to continue to grow its U.S. exports, based on increased consumption and healthy eating trends in the U.S. 

ProChile is also working to increase the exports of seafood products aside from salmon, Desplas said.

“Chile is, of course, very well known for its mussel industry in the U.S., and the consumption of Chilean mussels has been growing in terms of exports,” Desplas said.

That growth continued at a steady pace in recent years, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the last four years, we moved from USD 23 million [EUR 20.9 million] to around USD 36 million [EUR 32.8 million] in exports,” he said. “And it has been growing every year, despite the logistical issues.”

Desplas said Chile's seafood sector is eager to return to in-person business as the crisis of COVID-19 pandemic wanes.

“Right now, we’re trying to get back to business the way it’s supposed to be. It is very important for our company to be in touch with our clients,” Desplas said. “Chile has been a safe country to travel to. [Around] 95 percent of our population is already vaccinated. So we invite all the importers from different parts of the world to come and continue to be in touch.”  

Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource


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