Sinco aims to become market leader
As is the case in many of Namibia’s industries, a major challenge for the country’s fish processing sector is competing on an equal footing with international enterprises.
One local company that has taken note of this handicap, and is making it work to its own benefit, is newcomer to the horse mackerel industry Sinco Fishing.
Having obtained its first fishing quota in the 2012 financial year, Sinco in October announced what it claimed to be the single largest investment in a fishing vessel in Namibia yet, thanks to a joint venture with Iceland’s second-biggest fishing company, Samherji.
“It puts us in a better [trading] position. Whereas typically one is constrained by the wholesale price, having your own vessel allows you to control certain cost elements,” says Virgilio De Sousa, chairman of the board at Sinco Fishing, of the N$280 million vessel, the Heinaste.
Given the significant costs associated with such a purchase, De Sousa is especially proud of the fact that the Heinaste is the first Namibian-flagged horse mackerel vessel to join the scores of internationally flagged ships operating in Namibian waters.
Explaining the local company’s enthusiasm, De Sousa says working with a recognised partner such as Samherji comes with two major advantages, namely its vast experience and expertise, and its resources, which in this case include the ability to own a fishing vessel.
On the other hand, it also means that, while 50% of the Heinaste’s crew is Namibian, most senior positions are held by Icelandic nationals, as well as a few Russian citizens.
The two companies aim to increase Namibian representation to 60%, with all the company’s fishermen to be trained at the Namibian Maritime and Fisheries Institute (Namfi).
As of 2014, De Sousa says, the company will implement a bursary scheme in conjunction with the United Nations University Fisheries Training Programme (UNU-FTP), based in Iceland.
Being a new entrant into the industry does not come without its challenges, from criticism by existing concession holders who had their quotas cut as a result of the new entrants, to competition for cold storage.
According to De Sousa, Sinco’s partnership with Samherji has also come with the technological means to identify higher quality and bigger fish.
“Bigger fish have a more favourable meat-to-bone ratio, so the bigger the fish, the higher its value in the market,” De Sousa explains.
“We really chose our partners on the basis that they would allow us to become the market leader in the sector, we want to set the trend,” he says.
This can be a tricky endeavour, given Namibians’ high consumption of horse mackerel, the sector’s position as second largest in the country’s fishing industry, and its low value compared to other fish species.
Still, De Sousa is confident that the next step in Sinco’s value-addition plans is setting up a local and technologically advanced dry fish factory.
“The only thing is one needs to consider how much value addition one can afford to do in an industry as this,” he says.