14 May 2018

Namibia: Fishcor Goes On Publicity Campaign

The state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia's (Fishcor) invited journalists at its facilities at Walvis Bay, a few weeks after media reports revealed some questionable dealings at the company.

The Namibian reported last month about how Fishcor bought a fish factory at the coast for N$160 million in 2016, amid concerns that the parastatal overpaid by as much as N$50 million for the building.

A previous article also reported that fisheries minister Bernhard Esau handed Fishcor a fishing quota worth more than N$1,8 billion over a 15-year period. This deal would mainly benefit an Angolan-based company which partnered with Fishcor.

Fishcor then decided to host several media organisations through a public relations company owned by businesswoman and newspaper owner, Hilda Namundjebo.

Fishcor offered free transport and pocket money for journalists who travelled from the city to Walvis Bay.

Fishcor chief executive Mike Nghipunya told media at Walvis Bay on Saturday that their N$530 million land-based horse mackerel processing factory is expected to start operating by end September.

The Seaflower Pelagic Processing factory is being built on the 39 000 square metres plot on which the former Etale Fishing company was situated before it closed down in 2012.

Fishcor bought the property (including all the infrastructure on it) for N$160 million, which is considered over-priced, but Nghipunya called it a "bargain", adding that it may have been worth N$250 million.

"It's a strategic facility for what we want and the only available property that has a quay, which is key to our operations," he said. "Otherwise we have to rent a quay which is very costly."

Fishcor paid N$160 million from its cash reserves, while Angolan-based African Selection Fishing (ASF) Namibia paid N$370 million for the demolishing of the old infrastructure and construction and installation of the new facility.

"This is no joke. We are serious about this project, and wanted a partner that could show us the money," explained Nghipunya.

Fishing experts have criticised Fishcor for handpicking South African partners instead of Namibian firms that can also run the fishing company.

Fischor said the new factory could process more than 70 000 tonnes of fish per year with the 50 000 tonnes quota guaranteed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. Fishcor will receive usage fees and profits.

The facility will also see 600 tonnes of horse mackerel go through the plant every day and provide jobs to 700 people, of which 70% will be women.

What makes it so special, besides its size, is it will be a refrigerated seawater facility to ensure the fish is kept as fresh as possible from the moment it is caught until it is ready for export, according to him.

The new factory will consist of, amongst others, the seawater storage tanks, sorting and processing areas, blast freeze tunnels, and a cold storage hangar.

Other companies that do not have facilities will also be able to use the factory to ensure it is used to full capacity.

"It's not just for us, but it is a national project for the industry."

Nghipunya explained that the fisheries ministry gave Fishcor a fishing quota of 50 000 tonnes over a 15-year period (worth about N$1,8 billion) - that is 50 000 tonnes of the annual 330 000 tonnes total allowable catch for horse mackerel. He said the quota arrangement was to ensure the government mandated project remained sustainable. "The size of the quota must be seen in the light of the size of the facility," he said, adding claims government is spoonfeeding Fishcor was incorrect as it, like other companies, was granted a quota.

The main markets for this horse mackerel are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Mozambique, while Zambia was an emerging market and Zimbabwe is a potential market.

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