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ผู้เขียน หัวข้อ: Rubicon Resources, Wal-Mart and the Global Aquaculture Alliance  (อ่าน 3211 ครั้ง)
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« เมื่อ: สิงหาคม 07, 2007, 10:11:17 AM »



 

In the past two years, Rubicon Resources, LLC, the leading importer of seafood and seafood-related products in North America and a supplier of farmed shrimp to Wal-Mart, has purchased and upgraded roughly 150 shrimp farms in Thailand.  Rubicon is registered with The Aquaculture Certification Council’s Registered Buyers Program as a company that supports sustainable shrimp farming and responsible processing, and it plans to meet a year-end deadline that requires it to adhere to environmental and social standards backed by Wal-Mart, Red Lobster and other big buyers.

 

The Wall Street Journal reports: An estimated 80% of Thai shrimp farms—most of them small operations run by families living on-site—either lack the resources to make necessary upgrades or balk at the certification fees as costs they likely won’t recover.  That widens the gap between the haves and have-nots in Thai shrimp farming, providing a greater advantage to large, well-capitalized suppliers like Rubicon.

 

The changes afoot in the Thai shrimp ponds reflect the world-spanning, industry-rattling reach of Wal-Mart’s push for environmental sustainability.  The Bentonville, Arkansas, USA, retailer has prodded its suppliers to cut their packaging and pare their reliance on nonrenewable fuels.

 

Wal-Mart first threw its weight behind the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s shrimp farming standards in 2005, announcing that by the end of 2007 it would buy all its shrimp from farms certified as meeting the standards.

 

Wal-Mart buys more shrimp than any other USA company, 20,000 tons annually—about 3.4% of all USA shrimp imports.  With Wal-Mart’s nod, “We went from trying to convince individual facilities to become certified to having long waiting lines,” says George Chamberlain, president of the Global Aquaculture Alliance.

 

Many small farmers in Thailand have ignored the Alliance’s standards because they duplicate those already established by the Thai Department of Fisheries’ Code of Conduct for aquaculture farms as well as standards imposed by European buyers.  And some Thai farmers see little benefit in paying inspection fees—amounting to a fraction of a penny per pound of shrimp produced—or upgrading facilities where necessary because Wal-Mart won’t reimburse them for their costs nor pay a premium for certified shrimp.  Wal-Mart views those costs as the industry’s responsibility.

 

“It duplicates the procedure, and it doubles the expense,” says Pinyo Kiatpinyo, president of Thailand’s Network of Shrimp Farmer Cooperatives, which comprises 2,000 small farmers nationwide.

 

Others see the standards fueling a continuing consolidation of the industry.  Wal-Mart prefers to buy from fewer, stronger suppliers with control over all phases of production.  Rubicon, for example, owns 14 seafood processing plants, roughly 150 farms, plus its importing and exporting operations.  “Short term, [the costs of meeting the standards] are onerous,” says Brian Wynn, Rubicon’s president and chief executive.  “Long term, they are beneficial because they set up barriers to entry to nonintegrated companies.”

 

In the past two years, Rubicon spent more than $2 million amassing its portfolio of Thai farms and improving their operations to meet certification standards.  “We have buffer canals, water treatment processes, mangrove conservation, and [we] take care of public canals around our farms,” says Chana Tanglertpanya, president of Rubicon’s aquaculture division in Thailand.  “We also make good relations with the local villagers.”

 

Wal-Mart says it doesn’t foresee needing to shift some of its shrimp buying out of Thailand because of farms failing to meet the standards, but it can if it must.  “Proactive suppliers and farmers will see this opportunity and respond” by complying with the standards, said Peter Redmond, Wal-Mart’s vice president of seafood and deli.  “The rest of the [Thai production] will sell on the open marketplace, the same way it always has.”

 

Meanwhile, some environmental groups criticize the aquaculture alliance’s standards as too weak, alleging they stop short of significant environmental safeguards to instead allow producers a lower hurdle for gaining compliance.  The World Wildlife Fund is overseeing the drafting of environmental standards for aquaculture production of 11 species in the hope that Wal-Mart will either adopt them or prod the aquaculture alliance to match them.

 

Information: Brian Wynn, President and Chief Executive, Rubicon Resources, LLC, 5730 Uplander Way, Suite 200, Culver City, CA 90230 USA (phone 310-887-3883, fax 310-278-7203, emails info@rubiconresources.com and feedback@rubiconresources.com, webpage

http://www.rubiconresources.com/index.html).

 

Information: Bill More, Aquaculture Certification Council, Inc., 12815  72nd Avenue, Northeast, Kirkland, WA 98034 USA (phone 425-825-8634, fax 425-671-0146, email wrmore@comcast.net, webpage http://www.aquaculturecertification.org).

 

Information: Dr. George Chamberlain, Global Aquaculture Alliance, LLC, 5661 Telegraph Road, Suite 3A, Saint Louis, MO 63129 USA (phone 314-293-5500, fax 314-293-5525, email georgec@integra.prserv.net, webpage http://www.gaalliance.org).

 

Sources: 1. The Wall Street Journal.  The New Wal-Mart Effect: Cleaner Thai Shrimp Farms (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118523019620675464.html?mod=googlenews_wsj).  Kris Hudson (kris.hudson@wsj.com), James Hookway and Wilawan Watcharasakwet.  July 24, 2007.  2. Rubicon Resources’ webpage (above) on July 26, 2007.  3. Aquaculture Certification Council’s webpage (above) on July 28, 2007.

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