Chilean salmon producers' shares drop after ISA virus detected

SANTIAGO, April 11 Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:54pm EDT

SANTIAGO, April 11 (Reuters) - Shares in Chile's leading salmon producers tumbled Thursday, after a new outbreak of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) was discovered at one of Multiexport Foods' farming cages in the country's south, sparking fears the deadly virus could spread.

World No. 2 salmon producer Chile fell far behind top producer Norway after the deadly virus emerged in 2007 and decimated local stocks. The industry had since bounced back after implementing a series of reforms, taking lessons from other producers like Norway, Canada, Scotland and the Faroe Islands.

Salmon producer Multiexport Foods said on Wednesday it had detected the ISA virus at one of its cages containing nearly 25,000 Atlantic Salmon, equivalent to 0.12 percent of its total stock.

"The possible risk of contagion exists and that latent risk is what's hitting shares in the sector," said Alfredo Parra, an analyst at brokerage EuroAmerica in Santiago. "The virus forces you to harvest at a lower weight, therefore there's a significant drop in revenue."

Various salmon producers said they did not have farming sites close by the cage where the ISA virus was detected and they had the resources and sanitary protocols in place to deal with the possibility of an outbreak.

Multiexport Foods stressed it was dealing with the outbreak.

"We're certain we currently have the necessary regulatory framework to allow us to rapidly and effectively face this new case of the ISA virus," the company said in a filing with the local securities regulator.

At 14:25 local time (17:25 GMT) shares in Multiexport Foods fell 4.54 percent on the Santiago Stock Exchange. Among other producers, Blumar lost 4.43 percent, Australis Seafoods declined 4.15 percent and Invermar slipped 2.35 percent.

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