Where quality is the credo

Delivering products of exceptional quality to local markets.

25 February 2020 | Supplements

Etosha Fishing Corporation, formerly 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 which manages the only remaining operational cannery in Walvis Bay is a leading player in the Namibian fishing industry and considered to be one of the foremost round-can production facilities in Southern Africa.

The company is the proud Namibian home of the iconic and market-leading Lucky Star canned pilchard brand. It was also one of the first companies to successfully can Namibia’s own horse mackerel, establishing the well-known Efuta Maasbanker brand in 2013.

“Etosha Fishing operates in a business environment where its largest customers are the market leaders for canned fish in Southern Africa. It has been canning Lucky Star pilchards since 1999 and in recent years, also started canning pilchards for other leading brands,” says Etosha Fishing Managing Director Nezette Beukes.

Beukes adds that these superior canned pilchard brands sell at a premium price in the market due to its quality. Going beyond regulatory requirements, Etosha Fishing delivers products of exceptional quality.

Canned fish is a key source of protein on the subcontinent. Canned pilchards form the single largest component of this market. Etosha Fishing’s products contain no preservatives, is high in Omega 3 fatty acids, protein and selenium.

World-class cannery

According to Quality Assurance Manager Linekela Kapundja, Etosha Fishing’s cannery is a world leader in processing and automation with some of the most advanced automated equipment used for processing fish and quality monitoring.

The company has established a quality management system based on the principle of ISO9001, a standard that organisations the world over use to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.

The company also uses HACCP as a measure to control food safety risks, which is certified by the Namibian Standards Institution (NSI) through an inspection and audit program. All products are inspected by the NSI and the South African National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) for compliance with canned food manufacturing regulations.

“All these efforts have placed Etosha Fishing products among the best quality canned products, not just in Namibia, but in Africa and worldwide. Our products can be consumed by people of any culture or religion and through these certifications our products act as ambassadors to the Manufacturing and Food Industry outside of Namibia,” says Kapundja.

Testimony to this is the fact that Etosha Fishing has asserted its position as a leading producer of quality canned fish products on several occasions.

In 2015 and consecutively since 2017, the company has won three of the five large enterprise categories at the annual National Quality Awards, namely Company of the Year, Exporter of the Year and Product of the Year. The National Quality Awards is hosted by the Namibian Standards Institution (NSI).

Local value addition - Proudly Namibian products

In partnership with its sister company, Erongo Marine Enterprises, Etosha Fishing in 2013 pioneered local value addition of horse mackerel under its own EFUTA Maasbanker brand.

The word “EFUTA” originates from the Oshiwambo language meaning “from the sea”, while the prominent bright pink label design is derived from the traditional Ondelela colours.

It became one of the first fishing companies to successfully can Namibia’s national fish, thereby sustaining jobs at its factory. This value addition venture was in direct response to an on-going appeal by the fisheries ministry for employment creation and value addition in the horse mackerel sector, which is in line with government’s NDP5 and Vision 2030 policy framework.

EFUTA was the first Namibian canned product to receive the NSI’s Standard Mark of Conformity product endorsement. The EFUTA products are also Halaal certified and carry the Team Namibia product mark.

Initially launched in three flavours, namely tomato sauce, chilli and salt water, the company in 2018 added a curry flavour. It also introduced its own canned EFUTA Pilchard product in the same year.

Since the introduction of EFUTA Maasbanker to the local retail market in 2014, the consumers’ response was extremely positive and sales have increased five-fold with a total of nearly 5 million cans sold annually. Exceptionally low in cost, high in protein and especially rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, EFUTA Maasbanker is the most affordable, nutritious and best quality meal money can buy.

Sustaining business despite tough times

As a result of a three-year moratorium imposed on pilchard catches in 2017, Etosha Fishing in 2019 was forced to sell its three purse seine vessels, resulting in the retrenchment of 19 of its sea-going staff.

“Despite efforts to fish in foreign waters to sustain jobs and the running costs of our vessels, we were left with no other choice but to sell our vessels to keep the company afloat. Low catch rates and the financial burden of operating our vessels in foreign waters just did not make this option feasible any longer,” Beukes says.

However, despite the uphill battle Etosha Fishing has managed to ensure that its cannery remains operational with the assistance of its main shareholder, the Oceana Group. The company has been importing frozen pilchards for local value addition, mostly for the Group’s Lucky Star brand.

“We cannot afford to close the doors of Walvis Bay’s last operational cannery. We have to ensure that our 600+ employees retain their jobs, even if it means operating at break-even level,” Beukes stresses. “Of course, we also have a duty to protect our shareholders’ investment.”

She highlights that the importation of frozen pilchards comes at an extreme cost: “The high demand for pilchards globally combined with a volatile exchange rate, and the high cost associated with the importation of raw materials and consumables, does not make this a sustainable, long-term solution.”

Etosha Fishing is one of the few fishing operators that imports raw product to be processed on local soil before being exported, earning valuable foreign currency for Namibia.

In response to a dwindling local pelagic resource during the past decade, Etosha Fishing has been importing frozen pilchards since 2010. Although the canning of Namibian horse mackerel initiated in 2013 has allowed for a slightly more sustainable fisheries operation, it does not produce the volumes to keep the company afloat.

Despite the headwinds, Etosha Fishing remains committed to its corporate social responsibility. The company supplies canned pilchards to seven schools across Walvis Bay, feeding approximately 2 600 learners every day during school days.

The feeding scheme is coordinated through the Promiseland Trust, a non-profit welfare organisation that cares for and assists disadvantaged and destitute children in the poor communities of Walvis Bay.

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