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 Namibia logo.
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.”

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