The Chilean National Economic Prosecutor's Office (FNE) has accused the four major salmon feed producers operating in Chile -- Biomar, Skretting, Ewos, and Salmofood -- of a price-fixing agreement that stretched out for over a decade.
The prosecutors have requested the Chile's free competition court fine the companies for a total of roughly $70 million for the alleged collusion, which took place between 2003-2015.
Due to the "seriousness and temporary extension of the agreement" the producers' customers had no alternative but to pay the cartel prices, the prosecutors said.
The prosecutors also requested an exemption be made for Ewos, which is owned by Cargill, as the company was revealed to be the whistleblower in the case, "providing the background that gave rise to the investigation."
A spokesperson for Cargill confirmed this for IntraFish.
"As a company committed to ethical business practices, it was critical that we take the appropriate actions. Once we learned about this conduct in Chile, we immediately discontinued our participation in the conduct, notified Chilean authorities and cooperated fully, and trained our new employees," the spokesperson said.
Evidence was later strengthened through discovery and raids at company offices, according to the prosecutor's office.
A spokesperson for Skretting parent Nutreco was unable to give a detailed reaction to the prosecutor's allegations.
"We only became aware through press publications yesterday of the allegations made by the FNE," the spokesperson told IntraFish. "We take competition compliance extremely seriously. We will carefully review the complaint and present our case in due course."
BioMar's parent company Schouw & Co. said in a statement that the charges are based on "isolated circumstances related to the Chilean fish feed industry."
"BioMar Chile does not acknowledge the charges brought by the FNE, and the company intends to rebut the charges that it has participated in concerted practices so as to restrict competition in the industry."
According to the FNE, the companies coordinated both through the prices of the products, "the diets and the volumes of food they would supply their customers," as well as the prices of some of their raw materials.