Salmon farms leap ahead

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 September, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 September, 1995, 12:00am

TWENTY years ago, there were no salmon in Chile. Now, the country is the world's second-largest producer and is expected to replace Norway as the largest producer.

Last year, it exported 76,327 tonnes of salmon from the stunningly beautiful southern fjordlands. That remarkable crop brought in about US$350 million (HK$2.7 billion).

The salmon industry, which opened its first sizeable commercial farms in 1983, first located an insatiable market, then set about supplying those customers with goods produced exactly to their requirements.

As a result, Chile can sell just about every ounce of salmon it produces to the Japanese market. Large Japanese importers are so happy with the deal, they have ploughed investment and expertise into the salmon farms, which stretch for more than 1,000 kilometres down coves and fjords from the temperate zone to the back door of Antarctica.

In that unpolluted setting, hundreds of net farms hold plump salmon which are fed a scientifically balanced diet to give their flesh precisely the right proportion of fat and oil that Japan's top sushi chefs demand. Fish are grown and harvested under stringent hygiene regulations and the operations satisfy World Health Organisation environmental guidelines.

As a result, prices charged are the highest in the world.

Members of the Association of Chilean Salmon Farmers produce 95 per cent of farmed fish. The operation began with the importation of fertilised eggs in 1980.

Six years later, Chile was exporting 1,500 tonnes of salmon worth $4.5 million. Last year, it exported 76,327 tonnes.

The farms are set amid glorious scenery and the farmers say their fish come 'from the purest waters on earth'.