Monday, July 18, 2011, 02:40 (GMT + 9)

US retailer Wegmans has been looking for a new farm as shrimp supplier since Belize Aquaculture’s (BAL) closure.

Wegmans Senior Vice President of Consumer Affairs Mary Ellen Burris said the plant closed after Sir Barry Bowen, BAL’s owner, was killed last year in a plane crash and it was decided that BAL would be closed.

Wegmans is now seeking an equally sustainable source for its shrimp.

“It was October of 2007 when we introduced new purchasing standards for farmed shrimp, raising the bar to meet tough health and environmental standards,” Burris recalled. “BAL was our supplier-partner, committed to farming shrimp to eliminate the use of antibiotics and other chemicals, avoid damaging sensitive habitats, treat waste water and reduce the use of wild fish to feed shrimp.”

The vice president added that aggressive performance targets and an auditing and reporting system were installed to monitor progress.

“Our customers loved the taste and appreciated the methods of production that offered ecological benefits,” she stated. “We regret this setback but we recognised the personal passion that the owner brought to our pioneering effort. While we mourned his sudden death, we feared the changes that have come about might happen.”

Casting nets to catch shrimp for testing at Belize Aquaculture farm. (Photo: Wegmans)

Burris noted that Wegmans is considering a farming company in Indonesia that is very similar to Belize as well as one in Florida that meets about 90 per cent of the standards set at BAL.

She also mentioned two organic options certified by NaturLand Verband in Ecuador and Honduras, plus another farm in Belize, but the latter rears a different species that does not have the “rosy glow” the company prefers.

Wegmans will gradually phase out the frozen Wegmans Shrimp from Belize.

Relatedly, the chain has partnered with the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) to assist with Wegmans’s aquaculture sustainability programme. Specifically, efforts will aim to develop guidelines for the programme that will require that suppliers source from environmentally responsible sources.

The areas of the supply chain to be covered are the processing facility, farm and hatchery.

Wegmans operates 77 stores in the northeastern US and will open its first store in Massachusetts in 2011. It employs over 41,000 people and had 2010 annual sales of USD 5.6 billion.

Related article:

– Wegmans to keep seafood prices low in 2011

By Natalia Real