ANALYSIS - Fisheries and aquaculture exports in Chile are growing. As the country bounces back from its Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) outbreak and the Government continues to invest in the sector, Chile has seen a 10.8 per cent increase in exports from the fisheries and aquaculture sector during the first quarter of 2012 in comparison to the same period of 2012, writes Lucy Towers, TheFishSite editor.
Chile has now become an economic model for Latin America. Over the last 24 years its annual growth has averaged 5.2 per cent, reaching a GDP per capita of $16,171 in 2011.
Over this period, the food industry has become a major sector of the economy, representing 10.3 per cent of the country’s GDP and playing a central role in economic growth and development. Today, Chile’s intention is clear: to increase its international reach and reputation. Between now and 2020, Chile's objective is to rise to 10th position and to increase the value of its exports from $12 billion today, to $20 billion.
In 2011, the fisheries and aquaculture sector represented 5.8 per cent of all Chilean exports. Figures from the Central Bank of Chile show that in 2011, fisheries and aquaculture exports totalled $3,359.7 million, showing the sector's important role in the export expansion plan.
Much of the recent growth in Chilean exports is due to improvements and investment in the fisheries and aquaculture sector.
Pablo Montt, Director of ProChile's trade office in France, said that as increasing the volume of catch is not a sustainable option to increase exports, the Chilean fisheries industry has instead increased export value by adding value to fishery products, by joining certification schemes give differentiation from other producers and by always keeping a high level of quality and food safety.
At present, current aquaculture exports are based on salmon (Atlantic, Coho and Rainbow Trout) and mussels, but the public and private sectors are working towards aquaculture development for other species.
Accounting for 3.6 per cent of all exports, Chile is the world's second largest salmon producer. In 2011, combined salmon and trout exports amounted to 385,000 tons, worth US $2,926 million. This has accounted for a large proportion of the country's export growth.
Mr Montt also stated that ProChile has been working to increase exports of farmed mussels.
Mussel Growers have been working since 2011 to develop the Patagonia Mussel brand, developed initially for Russia. Thanks to this work, exports to Russia increased 45 per cent in 2011 making Chile the largest frozen mussel exporter to Russia with 77 per cent of the market share.
Speaking with TheFishSite, Paula Moreno, responsible for Chilean fish exports, said Chile is continuing to invest in order to continually improve fishery and aquaculture exports.
"At present, all fish and seafood products from Chile are certified by the National Fisheries Service for food safety. In line with growth plans, more companies are now complying with voluntary certification schemes, such as BAP of GAA, Global-GAP, Friend of the Sea," Ms Moreno said. She also expects to see more Chilean companies in the the future having MSC and ASC certified products.
The increasing amount of exports is also a sign that Chile has recovered from the devastating impacts of the ISA virus that began affecting the country's salmon farms in 2007.
Following the ISA crisis, the Chilean salmon farming industry transformed its production system through the development and implementation of 44 sanitary regulations covering the entire production process, said Ms Moreno.
An investment of over $500 million has helped to create the new production system which revolves around area management agreements, in which strict sanitary checks ensure minimal risk from new pathogens.
Ms Moreno also noted that all salmon eggs, whether locally hatched or imported, are now checked for disease and traced through to harvest. Mandatory vaccination of smolts, fallowing and enforced disease barrier zones, also all serve to minimise horizontal pathogen transmission and reduce pathogen load throughout the growth period.
The changes have also helped to add value to fish produced. For instance, Atlantic salmon now have an average harvest weight of up to 5kg and a mortality rate as low as 0.5 per cent. These improvements are now reflected in the rapid growth of exports and export value.
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