Etosha Fishing: Serious about growth at home despite difficult circumstances

The past decade has not been plain sailing for Etosha Fishing due to a dwindling local pilchard resource, which has traditionally been the mainstay of the company’s business.

23 February 2021 | Supplements

The three-year ban imposed on pilchard fishing in 2017 remains in place without any clear decision by government on the way forward.

Furthermore, Etosha Fishing’s much loved locally caught and canned horse mackerel brand, EFUTA Maasbanker, is under pressure to survive as the company struggles to source affordable raw material.

Since Etosha Fishing does not have a fishing right, the company must buy raw material for canning either by importing frozen pilchards or by purchasing horse mackerel from local rights holders at unsustainably high prices, exacerbating the situation.

To remain afloat, the company in recent years retrenched some permanent employees and had to sell three purse seine vessels used to catch pilchards.

However, Etosha Fishing Managing Director Nezette Beukes is adamant that the company will pull out all the stops to push through these difficult times. “We cannot allow these challenges to put our business on hold. We remain committed to aggressively tackling our country’s development plans in support of value addition, job creation and poverty reduction to ensure sustained economic growth at home.

“We have to devise various plans and business strategies to ensure that our cannery remains operational and hope that government can assist us in this regard. If we are forced to close our cannery, it would not only spell the end of Namibia’s pilchard industry, but the loss of more than 600 jobs,” she said.

Committed

Namibia’s fishing sector is the third largest contributor to Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product. Since government constantly reiterates the importance of increased job creation in this sector, and the need for higher-income generation from raw materials through value addition, Etosha Fishing has been leading by example.

As early as 2013, Etosha Fishing responded to this call by pioneering value addition in the horse mackerel sector - one of Namibia’s strongest fishing resources - through the establishment of its home-grown EFUTA Maasbanker brand.

As a low-cost, high-protein food source, horse mackerel plays a critical role in food security both locally and regionally. By canning locally caught horse mackerel, Etosha Fishing hopes to achieve a more sustainable fisheries operation with secure, long-term employment for more Namibians.

However, without access to raw material at an affordable rate, it becomes difficult to maintain production at sustainable levels.

Explains Beukes: “One has to understand that value addition in the horse mackerel sector alone is not enough to secure the profitability of our cannery. As a low-end product, we must keep the price as low as possible to ensure affordability, making effective marketing and expansion into foreign markets extremely difficult. The profitability of the product only really becomes viable with high volume sales.”

True asset

Over the years, Etosha Fishing has entrenched its position as a world-class cannery and true asset to the Namibian fishing sector as well as the local manufacturing and food industry. “We manufacture our products to the highest quality standards based on the principle of ISO9001, a globally recognized standard to demonstrate the ability to consistently produce products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements,” Beukes says.

Etosha Fishing uses HACCP to control food safety risks and is certified by the Namibian Standards Institution (NSI) through an inspection and audit program, as well as the South African National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) for compliance with canned food manufacturing regulations for all products the company produces.

With the focus on quality, it is no surprise that the company won its first award in 2015. Since 2017, Etosha has won three of the five large enterprise categories at the annual National Quality Awards, hosted by the NSI, namely Company of the Year, Exporter of the Year and Product of the Year.

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