Local officials in Chile are fearful about the possible long-term effects of the Calbuco volcano eruption on the fish and cattle industries in the country.

Calbuco's eruption in southern Chile last week has affected various farmlands in the area, forcing residents to evacuate along with thousands of cattle and sheep, according to Ema Budinich of the National Agriculture Society. The region is one of the leading producers of milk for Chile reaching 950 million liters last year amounting to about $346 million in profit.

The ash fall from the eruption has also dealt a blow on local salmon fisheries, with companies moving millions of their fry and smolt stocks out of fear of getting smothered by volcanic debris.

While official estimates of losses are not yet announced, National Fishing Service representative Eduardo Aguilera said that around 20 million fish have died because of the eruption.

The losses in salmon stocks could potentially affect the supply to the United States. Chile exported an estimated 132,000 metric tons of salmon products to the U.S. the previous year worth more than $1.4 billion.

Experts in the salmon industry of Chile stated that it is still too early to tell how much the Calbuco eruption could affect salmon exports to the U.S., but one American company said that it could reach up to 20 percent.

What is certain is that the impact on market prices and supply will not be felt until the following year due to the youth of the salmon stocks affected.

Franco Adam, CEO for ACME Chile, told Undercurrent News that the affected fish were smolt stocks that were not scheduled to reach markets for at least one to two more years.

A salmon importer and distributor in the U.S., however, claimed that by the second quarter of 2016, the impact of the Calbuco eruption to salmon exports could be substantial, potentially lessening supplies by 10 to 20 percent.

SalmonChile, an association of salmon farmers in the country, have expressed their optimism that the potential losses to the industry should be limited since the fish stocks affected were still in their growth stage and can easily be replenished.

The association's general manager, Felipe Manterola, told Undercurrent that the destruction will not affect Chile's salmon exports because the losses amount to only a small portion of the country's total production.

Photo: Carolina Barría Kemp | Flickr 

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