Imported frozen pilchard keeps doors open at Namibia’s only pelagic cannery
Imported frozen pilchard from North Africa, a strategy that was born in 2010 out of desperation, is helping the last cannery in Walvis Bay to continue its operations, and to employ its usual number of staff.
In the face of a three-year moratorium on pilchard, Etosha Fishing Corporation announced this week its cannery has been fully operational since January, processing frozen pilchard cutlets from Morocco and whole round frozen pilchard from Mauritania. The company gave the assurance that this strategy will enable it to guarantee employment for all its seasonal workers until the end of this year.
“Our cannery has been fully operational since January and we anticipate continuing normal operations for the remainder of the year. I am also confident that we will be operational until the end of 2019,” stated Etosha Fishing Managing Director, Pieter Greeff.
Once contracts are secured to continue canning pilchard for their existing clients, the cannery will also operate normally in 2019. Etosha cans pilchard for two well-known labels, Lucky Star and Glenryck.
Etosha’s ability to process frozen as opposed to wet fish required substantial investments in thawing equipment to be able to process the frozen pilchard optimally. Since frozen pilchard was imported for the first time in 2010, more than 50,000 tonnes of fish has been canned in addition to the local pilchard. Once the pilchard moratorium was announced, the factory became totally dependent on imports except for a tiny value-addition quota of 3250 tonnes of horse mackerel.
Following the recent conclusion of this year’s wage negotiations, Greeff said “We had to devise various plans and business strategies to ensure that our cannery remains operational, even if it means we only operate at a break-even level. If we had to close down our cannery as a result of the moratorium on pilchard catches, it would spell the end of Namibia’s pilchard industry. Restarting the factory would be too costly.”
Etosha sees the long-term viability of the cannery in growing the contribution from horse mackerel. This 340,000 tonnes industry has more than enough resource to allow a 10,000 tonnes allocation to Etosha to expand their highly successful Efuta canned horse mackerel product. From selling less than one million cans in 2014 when it was first introduced, its uptake has increased spectacularly to just under five million cans last year. Efuta runs on a horse mackerel quota of only 3250 tonnes landed by the company’s own midwater trawler with a Refrigerated Sea Water preservation system.
For this innovative approach, Etosha has invited all the other midwater right holders to utilise its cannery for the processing of the 5% horse mackerel quota earmarked for local value addition.
“Despite the current pressure of a dwindling pelagic resource, Etosha Fishing is determined to remain steadfast in our commitment to sustainable resource management, job creation and industry development,” said Greeff.