Salmon processing in a Chilean plant. (Photo: SalmonChile)
Salmon industry recovers half of the lost jobs
Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 03:50 (GMT + 9)
The Chilean salmon industry expects to recover next year the level of employment prior to the crisis caused in 2007 by the spread of infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus in the farms of the country.
According to the industry estimates so far about 50 per cent of the lost jobs have now been recovered but there is a shortage of labor and rising costs, the newspaper La Tercera reported.
The health crisis in 2008 led to the loss of more than 25,000 jobs, out of 32,000 direct jobs generated by the industry at that time.
"Most of those lost jobs were from Puerto Montt," recalled Rabindranath Quinteros, mayor of the town.
However, Puerto Montt is currently the town that has the lowest level of unemployment in Chile: 2.7 per cent between April and June 2011.
According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), in the same quarter last year, this town recorded an unemployment rate of 7.9 per cent.
Regionally, unemployment between April and June 2011 in Los Lagos Region was 4.9 per cent, while in the same quarter of 2010 it was 8.3 per cent.
According to the regional secretary of Labor in Los Lagos, Andrea Rosmanich, "Currently, the salmon industry is employing some 20,000 people in the area, which means that it recovered about half of what had been lost."
And the prospects are encouraging.
"Between the end of this year and early 2012, we expect to fulfill between 25,000 and 27,000 jobs in this industry in Region X," the official said.
In addition to lowering the unemployment rate, from September 2011 to February 2012 coho harvesting will take place, which will entail an increase in additional labor.
In this regard, José Ramón Gutiérrez, current president of the Association of Salmon Industry AG (SalmonChile), commented: "As investment started to increase in farms, strong employability will be noticed in the figures from the second half of 2011 onwards. All the employment growth is coming."
However, Gutierrez admitted that at the end of the year there will not be enough skilled labour.
According to the head of the Undersecretariat of Fisheries (Subpesca), Pablo Galilea, the recovery of the industry is still faster than expected. And he also acknowledged that "if the current pace of growth goes on, next year it will be a problem to hire people."
Friosur Executive Vice-President , Carlos Vial, highlighted that "production has been moving further south" and that "the recovery has been faster than expected."
On the one hand, Victor Hugo Puchi, AquaChile president, said: "We are experiencing a good time in connection to physical activity and productivity but it is important for the growth to be in harmony with sustainability because the financial risks remain."
But on the other hand, two Chilean researchers, Romilio Espejo Torres (Universidad de Chile) and Eugenio Spencer (director of the Biotechnology Center of Aquaculture, University of Santiago de Chile) expressed "deep concern" about new rules on the ISA virus.
"This new legislation provides, among other things, that the reporting of isolates of the virus of strains called HPR0 will not be mandatory, thereby defining a HPR0 as a virulent genotype," the researchers added in the letter to the newspaper La Tercera.
And they went on explaining: "The latest reports from the National Fisheries Service (Sernapesca) say there is HPR0 in more than 15 centres. It would be useful, then, that the new authorities of the agency were able to reassess the situation taking into account the views of various scientific groups that are studying the virus, and that with this background joint decisions can be taken based on scientific studies and sound criteria that actually safeguard the continuity of the salmon industry."
- Layoffs loom over salmon sector
By Analia Murias
Photo Courtesy of FIS Member SalmonChile - Asociación de la Industria del Salmón A.G