Peter Bender, co-owner and Managing Director of Huon Aquaculture, started the company in 1987 with his wife, Frances, and no formal background in the industry. In 1994, Peter made ownership of the business official, buying it from his family and eventually taking the company from around 30 staff to 460-470 employees, with production of salmon nearing 15,000 tonnes this year and turnover reaching more than $190 million.
"There are a lot of reasons for the increase that we've seen over the past two and a half to three years. Back then, we were exporting a lot of fish and for fairly low prices. There was a bit of a world oversupply of salmon then, whereas now the markets grown worldwide but grown particularly well in Australia. The past three years we have had something like 28-per-cent growth for domestic fresh sales, and this year so far it's about 35 per cent."
The market has changed since we last spoke with Peter, as exports for Huon have dropped from 30 per cent of sales to about 4 per cent. "The domestic market has grown very strongly, and it's growing faster than our ability to expand in production, which means were not exporting very much now. The more we sell domestically, the better return we get because we obviously don't have the air freight cost to get it to markets outside of Australia, which can be expensive, and the return here is quite good at the moment. Demand for salmon is growing quickly within Australia. Our domestic sales are pretty much everything at the moment, and that's split between fresh and value-added, with a little bit going to retail."