Competition for Chilean salmon builds

Published on
October 10, 2010

The wholesale import price of Chilean Atlantic salmon in Japan has jumped 20 percent since the beginning of 2010, to JPY 600 (USD 7.26) per kilogram, according to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. While in previous years Chilean producers would visit Japan, this year Japanese buyers have had to travel to Chile to negotiate, indicating that it’s a seller’s market.

The Chilean salmon industry is still recovering from the 2007 outbreak of infectious salmon anemia, which reduced production significantly. However, Chile’s national fisheries agency, Sernapesca, has reported no new outbreaks since this spring.

One of the main countermeasures the industry and government have taken is to designate “neighborhoods,” or production zones, and to increase the distances between them through relocation of fish farms. Production is coordinated within a neighborhood, and a rest period for the entire neighborhood between rearing cycles will allow the environment to recover before the next batch is introduced.

Production has dropped, and exports declined 33.5 percent, from 273,715 metric tons in the first half of 2009 to 181,393 metric tons during the same period this year, reported the Chilean newspaper Diario Financiero. By value, exports in the first half of 2010 declined 14 percent, totaling USD 1.025 billion, compared to USD 1.193 million in the same period last year.

Volumes to Chile’s traditional markets, Japan and the United States, have declined, by 8 percent, to USD 436.3 million, and 28.7 percent, to USD 227.5 million, respectively. Exports to the European Union fell 63.5 percent, to USD 31.9 million.

But exports to Latin America reached USD 171.7 million in the first half of 2010, up 24.5 percent, with Brazil the region’s largest customer. With a 38 percent increase in value, to USD 124 million, Brazil has become the third largest importer for Chilean salmon, accounting for 12 percent of sales.

While most of the Chile’s production is Atlantic salmon, the fifth-largest exporter of Chilean salmonids, Nissui-owned Salmones Antartica SA, based in Conchi, produces coho salmon and trout. In contrast to the general trend, the company’s exports grew by 19 percent in the first half of the year, compared to the same period in 2009.

Even as Japan struggles to obtain salmon at a price that penny-pinching consumers will accept, exports of Japan’s own pink salmon, mainly from Hokkaido, are increasing annually, with China taking the biggest share. In 2009, exports exceeded 100,000 metric tons. Of the Japanese pink salmon catch, 60 percent is exported. (Grilled salted salmon is a common breakfast dish in Japanese homes.)

This year, China has been aggressive buyer of salmon, squid and scallop, paying higher prices than the Japanese processors can pass on to customers.

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Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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