Casting the net wide
Namibia expanding fish export market
Windhoek ‑ Namibia’s fishing industry is aiming for a sizeable share of the United States of American market as it intensifies efforts to broaden its exports markets, as opposed to solely relying on Spain as a key export destination.
Namibian fish products have started entering the US market, a pilot phase being undertaken by two companies to assess the profitability of that market.
Namibia, famed for its hake and horse mackerel, has over the years relied on Spain and the European Union, as key export destinations.
The fall in demand and prices of fish products since the global financial crisis in 2008, has resulted in concerted efforts towards diversifying the export market for fish products.
Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau, told The Southern Times that the industry has been able to penetrate new markets.
He said that demand for hake from neighbouring South Africa has been picking up over the past few years.
“The industry is not necessarily feeling the effect of the slowdown in our key markets, the European Union and Spain particularly, as new markets have come up where there is decreasing demand in traditional markets.
“Demand for white fish (hake) from South Africa has been increasing,” Esau said.
“We have also been exploring the US market and there are two companies, still in the process of testing that market.
“Hangana Seafood has been packing fish for the US market, they started this season.
“The second company is Seawork Fish Processer, which also started exporting to the US this season,” Esau said.
“The US market is very big and we want to realise that potential. It’s a high income market and the industry will have to structure its pricing geared towards that particular market,” Esau said.
Namibia’s fishing sector is one of the country’s largest employers, with more than 13 000 workers and contributing around 4 percent to the country’s gross domestic product.
Harvesting for hake, popularised in key export market, the EU as white fish this season runs from May up to April 2014 while the harvesting for horse mackerel, which is only exported into the African market, runs from January up to December 2013.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources this year set the total allowable catch (TAC) for hake at 140 000 tonnes and 350 000 tonnes for horse mackerel.
Esau said that Namibia is keen to grow its African market for horse mackerel in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe as well as Nigeria and Senegal off the West African coast.
“Most of our fish has been going to the DRC but we have made decisions to grow the entire African market. We can’t put our eggs in one basket,” Esau said.
The Minister also said that Namibia started its annual harvest of seals this July; an exercise that often draws the ire of international animal rights activities, but which the government says is necessary to balance the eco-marine-system.
Seals feed upon fish, and if they are not culled annually, this might result in fish species being wiped out entirely, the government says.
Esau said that the seal harvest season has just started and 80 000 pups are going to be clubbed to death while 6 000 bulls will be shot.
The harvest of pups started this month and the season will come to an end in November 2013, Esau said.
The Minister acknowledged that Namibia is often subjected to international backlash from animal rights activists, but said the exercise is necessary to balance the marine ecosystem.
“Since we started harvesting seals, there are always groups of animal lovers who say we are not doing justice to the Cape Fur Seal by harvesting it.
“But we see this as a necessary exercise, which enables us to strike a balance within our marine ecosystem by harvesting some seals.
“If we don’t harvest the seals, this will result in an imbalance between fish and seals and eventually it will impact on the fish stocks,” Esau said.
Namibia’s seal harvest season attracts howls of criticism from international animal lobby groups whose complains centre on the manner in which seal pups are clubbed to death.
Adult seals, known as bulls, are shot at point blank range.
“There have been complaints in the manner in which we harvest the seals but we have always said if there is anybody out there who has a method that is ‘humane’ we are ready to test such a method.
“We have always appealed to those international organisations to come to us off season such that we do trials, we test the methods they think is humane,” Esau said.
He added that the reason for clubbing seal pups on the skull is ‘because that is the softest part of their body and they die quickly’.