28 May 2013 01:40
WALVIS BAY, 28 MAY (NAMPA) - The fisheries sector should not be dependent on one or two export markets, but should focus on the need for market diversification, Trade and Industry Minister Calle Schlettwein said here on Friday.
Speaking during a consultative meeting with stakeholders in the fisheries sector, Schlettwein said there is a high risk that Namibia could be impacted by preference erosion in other markets as well as ?behind-the-border? measures geared at protecting the domestic industry or consumer interests.
?Although progress is being made in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations, we are facing a unilateral deadline of 01 October 2014 on current market access arrangements with the European Union (EU), and we need to be prepared also for the worst,? he said.
The minister thus requested the fishing industry to shed their views on market diversification - a matter which has been under discussion for a long time.
?I am aware of new market diversification opportunities for red meat and other products, and would be eager to know if we could include some fish products in the process,? he probed.
Schlettwein also said there is a need to optimise mariculture and aquaculture.
Noting that Namibia?s retail shelves are full of imported oyster and mussel products, the minister said there should be a clearer understanding of the factors that stand in the way of local value addition for both the domestic and export markets.
Schlettwein further expressed concern regarding the domestic market being neglected, saying: ?We have a tendency to export the best, often all of the best, and leave inferior products for the domestic market. This is not a healthy situation.?
The minister added that it would be helpful if some joint ventures could be formed in all of these areas to ensure the further growth of the economy through the fishing sector.
Speaking at the same event, the Chairperson of the Hake Association of Namibia Matti Amukwa indicated that slow returns from the value added tax (VAT) claims made to the Finance Ministry cause serious cash flow problems for fishing companies.
?As a result, several companies produce value-added retail fish products, but due to the enormous costs of developing an international brand name, they are doing so under other companies? labels and not their own,? he explained.
He also said: ?In terms of value addition to species like oysters, it is not beneficial to the industry to change the nature of the product in order to achieve higher prices.?