Walvis Bayk — PRIME Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab opened a N$38,2 million hake factory at Merlus Seafood Processors at Walvis Bay on Monday.
Merlus Managing Director Chris Pedersen said the factory is the first in the country to supply 'value-adding' sea frozen products directly into the retail market.
This means the fish are caught at sea, processed on a factory ship as far as possible and then frozen.
The frozen fish is then further processed in a factory on land from where it goes directly to the shops.
Many companies process wet or fresh fish on land before it is frozen and sold, while others process and freeze fish at sea from where it is sold directly to markets.
According to Pedersen the land-based processing side of the business used to be conducted in Spain and Portugal.
"We have moved all of it to Namibia," he told The Namibian.
The new factory has employed 69 people who were picked from more than 4 500 applications.
Another 20 to 40 jobs will be created when two new processing lines are installed in April.
Another 200 employees work on the company's three vessels and in management.
The company plans to employ 150 people in the factory by 2007 when its turnover is forecast to be N$200 million.
The company predicts turnover will be N$80 million next year, up from N$8 million for the two months of production for this year.
The factory started production on October 13 and the first products were exported on November 5.
Mascato, an international marketing company with a branch at Walvis Bay, is a shareholder in Merlus and is responsible for marketing the company's products.
Mascato is the second biggest hake retail supplier in Spain and holds 14 per cent of the market share.
It supplies to the largest supermarket chain in Spain.
The Prime Minister called on the fishing industry to develop new ways of adding value to Namibia's marine products.
He also encouraged the industry to improve the export of products to landlocked countries within the SADC region.
He said while the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources set quotas at conservative levels to promote sustainability of resources and enhance the recovery of depleted stocks, a matter of great concern was the high number of labour disputes in the industry.
"This creates instability and unfortunate reversals".
The high level of unemployment, estimated to be 30 per cent, was an endemic weakness in the economy, he said.
"It is a dangerous time bomb".
The matter is further complicated by a mismatch between required skills and available jobs, he added.
"We need to maintain a conducive environment for workers to ply their trade, for investors to be attracted and for companies to make profits in the fishing industry".
He said it was important that labour disputes be settled and workers trained for specific skills.