A N$70 million fish processing plant has been inaugurated by Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Derek Klazen at Walvis Bay.

The factory is the third one that the Merlus Group of Companies has set up in the harbor town.

According to the Merlus Cormorant Fishing Director, the journey of building a factory started years ago, when he merely used to buy and resell fish from his garage.

Soon after, Julio Lloves teamed up with other small companies and bought a vessel where fish was processed offshore.

But the government called on the industry to create more jobs by setting up factories on land as opposed to in freezer vessels.

Lloves says Merlus responded by buying property near the sea and setting up two factories that process hake.

The last available space on the property has been used to construct a third fish processing plant.

The company exports 20% of the fish as fresh, wet hake to supermarkets and high-end restaurants in Europe, while the rest is processed into frozen products, despite its limited capacity.

"The factory that Seagull has here could only handle a certain small portion of fish to be frozen and also do very little processing. So the only part that was missing was the factory we are opening today. Merlus Cormorant Fishing, which is to use that fresh fish that comes and needs to be frozen onshore but that you want to value-add as much as you can. Now with this new factory, we will be able to do that with the fish we land."

Although it is operating at half capacity, the new factory, which employs more than 200 people, processes 10,000 metric tons of hake on a daily basis.

The Merlus Group's total employment has increased to 1,400 with the addition of a third factory.

Highlighting why value addition is important to the local economy, Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Derek Klazen commended Merlus and stressed that thousands of Namibians can now access jobs.

"The fishing industry, basically, there's that word they call what? Saturated? So it means there are no more jobs for anyone else, you know, unless we have new factories or new fishing vessels to employ more people, and the call is heeded by this specific company, Merlus, to build this new factory so much more people can be employed here, and that's why I'm so happy to be here."

The Merlus Group has further invested about N$34 million in a fishing trawler to support land-based operations.



Renate Rengura