December 18, 2014

Florida's Shrimp Industry

Shrimp Giant

From Miami, the Moreira family runs an operation that's one of the biggest players in producing, distributing and marketing shrimp coming out of Central and South America.

Mike Vogel | 7/1/2006

OceanBoy Farms, a Clewiston company, has found a way to grow marine shrimp with well water inland, rather than on pricey coastal land. Its shrimp sells at a 30% premium to imported, farm-raised shrimp and is marketed to supermarkets, exporters and distributors as well as direct to consumers through Costco.com, where it sells at around $10 to $12 per pound, including shipping and handling. OceanBoy Chief Operating Officer Steve Walton says the company expects to produce 3 million pounds this year. The shrimp is pathogen free and organic, and the company uses natural feed to improve taste, appearance and nutritional value, lowering cholesterol and raising Omega 3 and Omega 6 content, Walton says. "I think that's why we have an edge," he says. "The way we're trying to beat (farm-raised imports) is value added."

A Quiet Empire

Since coming to the U.S. in 1965, the Moreira family has accumulated real estate holdings in Colorado and Florida, and, overseas, in feed mills, poultry operations and plantain plantations in addition to shrimp. Led by Domingo R. Moreira, the family operation includes his U.S.-born son, Domingo A. Moreira, and sons-in-law Rafael I. Bru, chief operating officer, and Roberto E. Lopez-Ibañez, chief engineer.

Moreira has become known as a political donor and exile leader as well as a businessman, making $370,000 in political contributions from 1980 to 2000, third among Cuban-Americans, according to a Center for Responsive Politics study. He donated to a diverse mix -- 42% to Republicans, 26% to Democrats and 32% to the Free Cuba political action committee -- that included former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. He became a founding member and a director of the Cuban American National Foundation, the exile group that rose to prominence under the late Jorge Mas Canosa.

Moreira also has funded private-school educations in Miami for underprivileged children and a cancer philanthropy group. He has met with former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and other world leaders to press the exile view. His wife, Brenda, co-hosted Entre Cubanos, a CANF foundation radio broadcast to Cuba.

Moreira says that aside from helping longtime friends such as Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez and Democratic U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Joe Lieberman, he is winding down his political involvement. In fact, he says, his most recent political contacts were made not on Cuban matters but on shrimp issues.

Tags: Miami-Dade, Around Florida, Agriculture

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