Govt fishes for millions from another auction

OGONE TLHAGE
Fishing industry players are worried that the recent spate of auctions will kill the domestic fishing industry and cost the government millions in lost revenues.

Local fishing industry stakeholders want the government to ban foreigners from taking part in quota auctions to spur growth in the industry. With the government having thrown its net into the sea again, this time it is selling 11 090 metric tonnes of horse mackerel and it wants at least N$30 million through this process. The previous three auctions flopped after the government failed to reach its financial revenue targets.

The fisheries ministry announced that it will have its third auction in the space of 12 months, however, industry players claim the government could rake in much more funds if Fishcor was given the quota.

According to the auction bid document, bidders will scramble for 11 090 metric tonnes of horse mackerel. “Bids must be in multiples of 100 metric tonne with a minimum price of N$3 000 per MT for freezer fish and N$750 per MT for wet fish. Bidding entities should quote a price to the nearest two decimal places,” reads the document.

Sabotage

A fishing industry player, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the auction model adopted recently “is sabotaging the industry”. “The small guy will never grow. You would need millions to just buy quota and then more money for operations and vessels. But if you only had the obligation to pay quota fees and levies you can grow.”

The source added: “In this scenario, the guy with the vessel still makes the most money. Also, assume you are a trader and survive from selling to the DRC, now all of a sudden you are competing with that government. It’s impossible to survive. This practice must be reserved for locals only. ”The 30% local consumption criteria was to assist downstream players like traders. Operators now had no choice but to sell 30% to them which they could on sell. Now we are eliminating the traders too,” said the source.

Through last year’s auctions, the government netted just over N$1 billion, with the first auction netting N$575 million followed by another auction that generated N$408.6 million. that was used to fund the government’s Covid-19 response in November 2021 and the most recent netting government N$85 million in an auction that involved the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Industry voices

The chairperson of the Confederation of Fishing Associations, Matti Amukwa, welcomed the auction, saying it was helping to boost government coffers. “Government needs to raise funds; the quota has always been there, before it was a Fishcor mandate. We understand they need the money, but as long as it is done locally, it should be kept here so that we can maintain employment,” he said.

Fishcor CEO Alex Gawanab said the government allocated quotas as it deemed fit to meet its objectives, noting that it was not in competition with the government as far as the government objectives quota was concerned. “If government has objectives to meet through Fishcor, it would allocate them to Fishcor,” he said, noting the need to sustain employment and keep its factories running. “We will apply to government where we deem it necessary. We are not in competition with government, it is the prerogative of government to allocate how it sees fit,” he said.