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Cargill eyes shrimp farming potential in Latin America

New tech, more growth may mean potential investment opportunities, exec tells audience at the NYC Seafood Investor Forum.

Shrimp production may see double digit growth for the next few years in India, Ecuador, Indonesia and Thailand, Cargill Group Director and VP Dan Burke told attendees at last week’s IntraFish Seafood Investor Forum in NYC.

In the last 35 years, farmed shrimp production went from nearly zero to 4 million metric tons annually, he said. Black tiger shrimp was the main species from 1985 to about 2000 and then vannamei took over and saw a 300 percent from 2000 on mainly due to higher farming efficiency.

Today China, Vietnam, Ecuador, Indonesia and Thailand produce roughly 70 percent of the total farmed shrimp globally.

The Asian shrimp model is highly fragmented with limited vertical integration, Burke said.  The Latin American industry, meanwhile, is more extensive and more vertically integrated. About 50 percent of Latin American farms are over 100 hectares in size, but only harvest about 2 tons per hectare. In contrast, most Asian farms are less than 1-2 hectares in size and harvest is more than 9 tons per hectare so a lot more intensive farming.”

Latin America

Burke feels Latin American shrimp farms in particular offer investment opportunities down the road.

In 2016, Ecuador led Latin American shrimp production with 57 percent of total output, followed by Mexico and Brazil with 17 and 8 percent, respectively.

The World Bank estimates Latin American farmed shrimp production will increase to 843,000 metric tons by 2030 with an annual growth rate projected at 1.5 percent per annum to 2030. Its export market share is estimated to increase from 14 to 25 percent by 2030.

Innovation, tech

New advancements in technology are moving quickly to increase growth rate and ensure shrimp health, which bodes well for the sector, Burke noted.

Cargill entered the Ecuadorian shrimp feed sector a few years ago, partnering with a local player -- Naturisa -- to gain access.

The joint venture feed plant grew from 27,000 metric tons to more than 50,000 metric tons in the first year and this year, "we expect to be over 100,000 tons," Burke said.

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