Farmed mussel production has increased sharply over the last 15 years. (Photo: Stock file)
Chilean mussel producers look to consolidate international markets
Wednesday, April 20, 2011, 04:40 (GMT + 9)
In recent years, there has been a steady growth in Chilean mussel farming, which encourages fishing companies to seek new markets and diversify its production, mainly salmon.
While the fishing industry spent only around USD 190 million in this activity over the last 15 years, the production of farmed mussels rose sharply.
The fishing sector intends to position mussels as one of the best seafood products in the world, reports Diario Financiero.
According to data provided by the National Fisheries Service (Sernapesca), during mid 1990, Chile produced 2,100 tonnes of mussels. Whilst 10 years later, a total of 28,000 tonnes were obtained.
In 2009, the harvest of mussels came to 168,000 tonnes, and in 2010, the figure reached over 214,000 tonnes.
These figures allowed Chile to place itself amongst the top four producers in the world, after China, Thailand and Spain.
Patricio Leiva, president of the Association of Mussel Farmers in Chile (AmiChile), said that "the Chilean mussel is showing a steady growth under the conditions of a young sector in full development."
In the short and medium term, the sector looks to continue the expansion of production and conquer other markets.
Some companies - such as Camanchaca, El Golfo and San José - seek to transform the cultivation of mussels from an artesanal industry to an industrial one.
"Today, the fishing companies see horizontal integration of the mussel sector as a very attractive option because many of them have a long tradition of seafood products, know the market well and therefore it is very interesting to extend coverage and add a new product, which is much more stable than fish," Luis Pichott, the Regional Manager of Marine Resources for Fundación Chile, told Diario Financiero.
As Chile does not have a high consumption of mussels compared with other countries, "its strength is in exporting, mainly frozen products (52 per cent) and less so of fresh chilled (38 per cent)," said the director of Aquaculture Engineering at the University of Andrés Bello, Claudia Navarrete Taito.
According to the manager of the National Fisheries Company (Sonapesca), Hector Bacigalupo, roughly 80 per cent of all mussel production is destined for foreign markets, so the challenge for the sector is to compete with a diverse range of quality products.
To give greater impetus to the cultivation of mussels in the country, a group of businessmen and scientists from the University of Austral de Chile, this month traveled to Spain to meet mussel harvesters employed in the coast of Huelva and Galicia.
The Chilean delegation visited treatment plants and the Galician Institute of Aquaculture Training (IGAFA), based in A Illa, where they discussed cultivation and farming methods used to develop mussels, oysters and clams in their own laboratories and in troughs located in estuaries, reports the EFE news agency.
By Analia Murias