Carlos Liberman together with the Director of Aquaculture Guillermo Abdala (Photo: courtesy of Revista Puerto)
The magical growth of Argentine aquaculture
Monday, October 03, 2022, 01:00 (GMT + 9)
The Undersecretary of Fisheries announced before the FAO in Rome that Argentina plans to double fishery exports from aquaculture. When consulted, the Director of the area confirmed that the figures do not correspond to the projections of the official statistics, but it is inferred that we will grow at the world rate of the sector.
For years, aquaculture has been, in the mouths of officials, the promise of development of Argentine fishing, but it never arrives. Although in the last year two companies have made investments in this field, the growth process is incipient and does not project the economic and social impact announced by the Undersecretary of Fisheries in Rome.
"With Aquaculture there is a complement in the generation of aquatic proteins for consumption, as well as a great opportunity to develop more foreign exchange, jobs and quality food. As a whole, we could talk in a few years of exceeding 4,000 million dollars a year and more than 150,000 direct and indirect jobs," said the Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Carlos Liberman, at the opening of the 35th Period of Sessions of the Committee on FAO Fisheries, held in Rome, Italy.
The figure is scandalously high, it represents the doubling of fishery exports and an unimaginable increase in job creation for the aquaculture sector of at least 149,700 jobs in a few years.
Aquaculture production volumes in 2021 were 3,700 tonnes, a value similar to that of the last ten years. In 2013 and 2014 the export volume was higher, reaching 4 thousand tons, but then it decreased until 2020 when 2 thousand tons were exported. This fall is due to a sustained decrease in the production of pacú, which went from 2 thousand tons per year to 900 tons; only in 2021 did it recover, reaching 1,200 tons.
In the rest of the species, such as carp or tilapia, a drop in production is also observed, but the volumes handled are very low: in no case do they reach 200 tons.
In the case of mussels, a significant growth in production is recorded for the volumes handled by Argentina. Last year 68 tons were produced, being the maximum value of the last ten years. This may be due to the investment made by the Newsan company in a small-scale project, which has been gradually increasing the number of longlines. The company's expectations are to reach 700 tons in the coming years.
But the recovery in 2021 of aquaculture production is explained by the growth that occurred in trout production, which went from 1,200 tons in 2013 to 2,200 tons in 2021, replacing the lost tons of pacú.
Newsan has also intervened in this field by associating with Salmon Trout to promote the development of a rainbow trout project in the Limay Basin (provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro) that will involve an investment of 22 million dollars to reach in five years a volume of 13,000 tons of production and the gradual generation of 250 new jobs.
Another project that is being promoted is that of Truchas Alicurá, in the province of Neuquén, with Pesquera San Isidro, which expects to have a production of 1,500 tons of pansai trout in the coming years. The trout projects of the fisheries are the most important investments that have taken place in the aquaculture sector in recent times, but the growth projections are far from the figures presented by the Undersecretary.
The estimates of the Aquaculture Directorate for 2022 have no variation compared to 2021 and the projections for 2025 are 25 thousand tons, which is why it is considered by the authorities as the activity with the greatest potential.
We consulted the Director of Aquaculture of the Undersecretary of Fisheries, Guillermo Abdala, so that he could explain to us where these announced figures of 2 billion dollars and 150,000 jobs come from, given that the reality of aquaculture in Argentina prevents us from understanding how they will achieve in a few years reach those rates.
PUERTO MAGAZINE: Could you tell us where the figures presented by Undersecretary Carlos Liberman at the FAO Fisheries Subcommittee meeting come from?
GUILLERMO ABDALA: The path by which we project growth is the global percentage that this sector represents. The first comparison is in mirror image at a global level, if in the world it represents 54% and in Argentina it represents 0.01%, growing at a rate at a local level that is reflected at a global level, it could generate a total of similar characteristics. To the 2 billion dollars generated by the fishing sector, another amount would be added from aquaculture. Simply because if in the world it represents more than half of the proteins that are consumed and in Argentina only 0.01%, growing at a rate comparable to what is happening in the world, we could be heading towards that.
PUERTO MAGAZINE: So these are hypothetical numbers and not projections based on production data from official statistics?
GA: The 2021 number gave 3,690 total tons of species from the provinces that report, for us that number is on the rise because it is very complex to track crops and take samples because it is not like extractive fishing, which you can quantify immediately. The fact is that in terms of specific production data... the current picture must be considered based on what exists, which does not imply that in two months an investment project will be maturing, which in many cases can mature, such as aquaponic crops.
RP: The difference between what you project based on what is happening in the world and what really happens in Argentine aquaculture is abysmal: you are proposing a doubling of exports in a few years.
GA: What happens is that, in some way, you have to take the mirror of world production as a reference in your country because it is the path through which you travel in the sector and project the country's productive policy.
It is the place that your sector has, we can always think about the projections at a global level because if the projections in the world represent more than 54% in our country there is no technical impediment by which we could not reach that.
The Undersecretary of Fisheries and the Director of Aquaculture consider that Argentina will have the aquaculture development that the world has because that is the trend, although this trend began decades ago and in our country it has never been developed. The responses make it clear that the exponential growth of aquaculture to which the Undersecretary of Fisheries referred is not based on data but on illusions, in which even the concerns of potential producers are considered as projects to be carried out.
"It takes time; I cannot say that it will be in two, four years or when that number will be reached, perhaps I will have to see it from another place. We see that it is possible in the sector, there are a lot of projects that are being studied and that is part of this projection," says Abdala, making special reference to amberjack farming, in which Food Partners has shown interest.
The difference between what has happened to date with aquaculture and what will happen according to officials is given by the predictability provided by the national law for the sector enacted in 2015 and the fact that they are determined to work to turn aquaculture into a complement to the fishing activity. What is clear, beyond good intentions, is that the path to doubling fishery exports from aquaculture development is much longer and more uncertain than the one announced by Undersecretary Liberman.
Edited by Malena Nahum