Cargill sets out its aqua feed ambitions as it invests $30m in Ecuador shrimp feed sector

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Cargill sets out its aqua feed ambitions as it invests $30m in Ecuador shrimp feed sector

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Cargill has formed a joint venture with shrimp producer, Naturisa, to build a $30 million shrimp feed facility near Guayaquil in Ecuador.

The Minnesota-based agribusiness giant will own 75% of the JV and have managerial control of the day-to-day operations, while Naturisa will retain 25% in the business. The new plant will produce shrimp feed marketed under the Purina brand for fish producers in Latin America.

Although Cargill has been serving the Ecuadorian market with feed and nutrition products as well as various agricultural commodities and food ingredients, this outlay represents its first asset operation in that country.

“This investment is aligned with Cargill's goal to be a global leader in shrimp and feed nutrition. Ecuador is a key market in shrimp globally. Cargill has participated in the Ecuadorean market for eight years now exporting products from our Peru operations and built a solid foundation there.

Investing was a very natural step in this journey and doing it in combination with a strong partner like Naturisa was fundamental to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of our first investment in animal nutrition in Ecuador,”​ Hugo Contreras, Cargill's aquaculture strategy lead, told FeedNavigator.

Shrimp production in Ecuador

Shrimp is the second largest export item in Ecuador with total exports of $2.3 billion and around 277,000 MT in 2014. Naturisa’s shrimp production business in Ecuador produces 16,000 MT of shrimp, which is exported to Europe, the US and Asia. The firm also holds a 50% ownership in Songa, the fourth largest shrimp processing and export plant in Ecuador. 

The Ecuadorian move builds on Cargill’s recent investment in a fish feed extrusion line at its facility located in Puebla in Mexico.

Contreras said the company intends to grow its presence in aquaculture feed in Latin America and other key regions: “Aquaculture represents a key growth focus area for our compound feed and nutrition business.”

And he said significant R&D resources at the agri-food group have been and continue to be invested to come up with products to help fish producers move away from relying on the use of strategic ingredients like wild caught marine fish meal and oil.

Disease challenges

Asked whether shrimp disease challenges like early mortality syndrome (EMS) are also on Cargill's R&D radar, he said the company recognizes and understands that tackling diseases goes beyond feed and it continues to collaborate and engage with industry to be able to react to new threats.

“We have experience of doing business in many regions where disease outbreaks have occurred,”​ he said.

He said Cargill ran a workshop in Mexico on EMS – a disease which has hit shrimp populations across China, Thailand, Malaysia and Mexico and caused industry losses of over $5bn according to some estimates. The event saw a group of disease specialists, farmers, geneticists and other key industry stakeholders convene to discuss how best to tackle the devastating disease.

“Since that time, we have been working on the ground in Mexico as well as investing heavily into research at our global fish and shrimp innovation center in the US to launch SmartShieldT, which is a holistic support package combining a feed package, an on-farm risk assessment tool and a specialized technical support package for shrimp farmers suffering from or at risk from EMS,”​ said Contreras.

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