Despite uncertainty in Namibia’s fishing industry due to the
expiration of 95% of local fishing rights at the end of 2018, Etosha Fishing
remains confident about its future and continues to invest in infrastructure
and product development.
“We need an aggressive plan for local manufacturing. The
opportunity for growth is there, across the board,” says Etosha Fishing
Corporation Managing Director Pieter Greeff. He is also the Board Chairperson
of Team Namibia, a private sector initiative focused on promoting Namibian
products and services in support of the country’s national objective of
sustained economic growth at home.
Namibia has one of the most productive fishing grounds in
the world and its territorial water contains around 20 different species such
as pilchard, anchovy and horse mackerel, as well as lobster, hake and monkfish.
This sector has grown to become the country’s second biggest export earner
after mining. It is also the third largest contributor to GDP.
Etosha Fishing Corporation, first known as the Walvis Bay
Canning Company, pioneered Namibia’s fishing industry in the 1940s with the
country’s first fishmeal and canning plant. Today the company is a leading
player in the Namibian fishing industry and considered to be one of the
foremost round-can production facilities in the world. It is based in Namibia’s
main port city of Walvis Bay and is the country’s only remaining operational cannery.
A dwindling pelagic resource forced the
closure of the only other cannery in 2017. At present there is a three year
moratorium on the catch of pilchards to facilitate the recovery of stocks.
“There exists an opportunity in the Namibian fishing
industry for further value creation by finding innovative solutions such as
alternative uses of fish products. We cannot allow challenges such as this to
put our business on hold. We need to aggressively tackle our country’s
development plans in support of value addition, job creation and poverty
reduction,” says Greeff.
Namibia’s fisheries sector total landings range between
510,000MT and 550,000MT annually, with pilchard catches at only about 3%, which
traditionally formed the mainstay of the local canning industry. In sharp
contrast, horse mackerel makes up about 65% of total landings, but until
recently lacked innovation in terms of value addition.
In response to this challenge and in line with a Government
directive for more value addition in the fishing sector, Etosha Fishing broke
ground in 2013 with the introduction of Namibia’s first canned horse mackerel
product range called EFUTA Maasbanker. It was the first Namibian canned product
to receive the Namibian Standards Institution’s Mark of Conformity endorsement.
It also Halaal certified and is a proudly Namibian product displaying the Team
The product range, which includes
tomato, chilli and brine flavours, was successfully introduced to the Namibian
retail market in 2014 and showed tremendous uptake, with sales increasing from
an initial 80,000 trays (960,000 cans) sold in the first year to an estimated
400,000 trays (4.8 million cans) sold annually at present.
To further sustain operations,
Etosha Fishing has imported in excess of 50,000metric
tons of frozen pilchards for processing on local soil since 2010. The company
currently cans pilchards for the well-known Glenryck South Africa and Lucky
Star pilchard brands.
In recent years the company also
made substantial investments in thawing equipment in order to process the
imported frozen pilchards more efficiently and it continues to invest heavily
in product innovation. It recently launched its EFUTA Maasbanker curry flavour product
and testing of a minced horse mackerel product is also currently under way. An
on-shore facility to freeze horse mackerel is also in the pipeline.
Despite the current uncertainty
in the local fishing industry owing to various factors, the future remains
optimistic. In his Ministerial address to the fishing industry at the start of
the year, Namibian Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau said:
“The fact that someone’s fishing right has expired does not imply that they
cannot continue participating in the fishing industry, or that their
investments in this sector are no longer required. The fisheries sector
comprises of several levels in the value chain, beginning with fishing, where
fishing rights are exercised, processing, logistics, supplies and many other
economic activities. Many of the large investors in this sector are in fact
operators, processors, suppliers and logistics companies who do not have
fishing rights. We value these investors a lot, as they are important to the
success of this.”