New Zealand: Aquaculture has been identified as the Southland industry with the most potential to expand quickly and relatively easily, bringing more business opportunities and jobs, and greater economic returns to the province.
With a 4.5kg New Zealand salmon now worth about the same as a barrel of crude oil, long-term industry players and supporters say now is the right time to awaken the aquaculture sleeping giant. Allison Beckham investigates.
Tommy Foggo knows seafood.
The Sanford Southland manager has overseen the company's southern enterprises for more than two decades, including Chinook (king) salmon and mussel farms on Stewart Island and, more recently, Bluff oyster farming.
He also knows its potential.
Salmon returned dramatically more per hectare than any form of agriculture or other aquaculture - 2000 times more per hectare than beef or sheep meat production, he said.
To put that into perspective the "farm gate" value of an additional 700ha of salmon farms would be $1billion; another 700ha in beef and sheep production would add $500,000.At present, Sanford produced about 3200 metric tonnes (mt) of salmon annually and 2600mt of mussels in Southland, directly employing 193 full-time-equivalent workers.
Sales of $66million were generated annually, of which about $60million was returned to the local economy through wages, salaries, operating expenses and purchases.
"From this relatively small production volume there is significant economic and social value created from a very small footprint on the water."Mr Foggo described aquaculture in Southland as a "sleeping giant", with potential for expansion in all the species now farmed, plus blue cod, and room for many companies to be involved.