Learning from those who know is the reason behind the upcoming trip to Chile sponsored by the World Trade Center Alaska, in cooperation with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation.
The nine-day agenda, labeled "Supply Chain and Food Distribution in Chile: From Harvest to Customer," is focused on unraveling the secrets of Chile's success in the international seafood market.
Rep. Drew Scalzi, R-Homer, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, Gary Fandrei, director of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, and Paul Shadura, with the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association, are part of the 27-member delegation departing Alaska Saturday, and returning Nov. 11.
"I'm really looking forward to this," Scalzi said. "After talking to a lot of people in the salmon industry, they think it's very important we go and find out what our competition's going to look like in the next few years."
'If we're going to be comparing ourselves to these players and considering them our competition, we need to understand who they are and what they're doing.'
--Rachel Fedewa of World Trade Center Alaska
Scalzi said Chile's marketing of farmed fish has been "devastating" to Alaska.
"And not just here, but worldwide," he said. "Chile has come out like gang busters."
Chile is the measuring stick against which Alaska's seafood industry is compared, said Rachel Fedewa, program and membership services manager for World Trade Center Alaska.
"They are very similar to us geographically in the challenges they face with transportation and an economy based on natural resources," she said. "If we're going to be comparing ourselves to these players and considering them our competition, we need to understand who they are and what they're doing ... . We cannot afford to live in a vacuum."
Briefings and site tours will offer an overview of Chile's transportation, distribution, harvesting, processing, investment, technology, telecommunications and logistics models, exploring the similarities with, as well as the differences between Chile and Alaska.
"Especially in terms of transportation and distribution, because they have that figured out," Fedewa said. "That's a major issue we grapple with."
The Chileans also are anxious to meet with representatives from Alaska's seafood industry.
"They don't see us as competition, but as possible alliances for global distribution of seafood as a competitor with other protein products such as poultry," Fedewa said.
Bagley said he was urged to participate by Kenai Peninsula commercial fishers who anticipate legislation to repeal the state's ban on farmed fish will be introduced during the upcoming legislative session.
"If this is going to be a big issue in Juneau this year, I want to make sure I'm up to speed," Bagley said.
Fandrei will have his eye on the "logistics of moving products from a fairly remote area to an area where there's a large demand and providing quality products."
One of the stops the delegation will make is at the remote site of Patagonia Sea Products, operated by Vincent and Judith Arbucci, former peninsula residents. According to Fedewa, Bagley helped coordinate contact with the Arbuccis, who were involved in Alaska's commercial fishery and relocated to Chile after visiting there a couple of times.
"Because of their experience, they set up a shellfish farm," she said.
Also traveling to Chile are other members of the Alaska Legislature and representatives from the Alaska Fisheries Development Founda-tion, the Aleutians East Borough, King Cove Corporation, Wells Fargo Bank Alaska, H.C. Price, Movers Inc. and Sand Point Mayor Glen Gardner.
"It's going to be really interesting," Fedewa said. "We have a group of real movers and shakers. The discussions while we're there will be very interesting, and also when we get back."
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