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Aquaculture company buying 54 per cent of South American salmon farm

April 4, 2013 – Chronicle Herald

    New Brunswick multi-national Cooke Aquaculture Inc. is spending US$20 million to buy into a Chilean salmon farm.

    The deal to acquire a 54 per cent stake in Invermar is slated to close at the end of this month.

    “What’s attractive about it is it does have hatcheries, a processing plant and it has farms in the 10th Region of Chile,” Cooke spokeswoman Nell Halse said Thursday.

    The New Brunswick salmon giant, which directly employs 135 people at operations in Nova Scotia, has owned Chile’s Salmones Cupquelan since 2009. It has farms in a fjord in Chile’s neighbouring 11th Region, she said.

    “But we have had to contract out the hatchery and processing side of the business, and we’ve been looking ever since we’ve been in Chile for growth opportunities, not only to expand our capacity for production, but also to implement that integration model that we have here in North America whereby we would have hatcheries, farms, a processing plant and a sales and marketing division,” Halse said.

    Both Pacific Ocean operations produce Atlantic salmon.

    Halse wouldn’t divulge whether Cooke, which also has operations in Spain, intends to buy any additional Chilean fish farms.

    “In our 25-year history, we’ve always been open to growth opportunities and that won’t change,” she said.

    Spending money in Chile won’t have any implications for Cooke’s Nova Scotia operations, Halse said.

    “This is about strengthening our Chilean operations so that we can be part of the future of the salmon farming industry in Chile. We see a lot of consolidation going on there right now similar to what happened here and other parts of the world.

    “The companies that have the size, the capacity and the strategic plan for the future are the ones that are going to stay standing, and we want to be part of that future.”

    The bulk of Chilean salmon is exported frozen into Asia, Europe and North America, she said.

    “In our North American operations, we are focusing on fresh product,” Halse said.

    “We are very close to the U.S. and Canadian marketplace. We can get fish from the water to restaurant tables and into stores within 24 or 48 hours, and no one else can do that here. The other (salmon-producing) countries like Norway, Scotland and Chile can’t beat us on that.”

    Cooke’s Nova Scotia operations include a feed mill in Truro, and 10 fish farms around Digby, Shelburne and St. Margarets Bay. Cooke also plans to build a hatchery in the Digby area and a processing plant near Shelburne.