Namibian Oysters in Huge Demand

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By Petronella Sibeene WALVIS BAY The oyster market remains attractive both locally and internationally with Walvis Bay Salt Refiners looking at possibilities of expanding their aquaculture farming. The company’s operations manager, Stephan Anderson, told New Era that these delicious bivalves are much in demand at raw bars and other fresh-seafood venues. Anderson in an interview recently revealed that Walvis Bay Salt Refiners exports 900 000 oysters per annum to countries such as South Africa. Although the salt works cover about 4 500 hectares and only one hectare is allocated for oyster farming, he says there is enough area to expand oyster production. Four years ago, the farm operated at a loss but changes in the management of the oyster farm has turned this around. Although he could not state the loss margin, he said that better marketing and planning have resulted in higher demand by oyster connoisseurs. “We have orders every day although only a small portion of production goes to the local market,” he said. The operations manager further explained that spat is imported from Brazil. It is usually the size of a nail and is placed in baskets (or special containers) under water. The process of salt production requires the regular pumping of a large quantity of fresh seawater into a series of evaporation ponds. Atlantic water off the Namibian coast is ideally suited for this form of farming, being very rich in nutrients, clean and of suitable temperature. In the first ponds oysters are cultivated. Oysters require periodical sorting (according to size) and checking to prevent harmful worms from destroying it. The period of growth from spat to when it is ready for the market is usually between 8 to 10 months. Oysters can survive a long time (up to eight days) outside of water if kept in slightly wet conditions. The industry has already achieved global demand and thus holds great potential in turning around the country’s economy, said Alec Forbes, Special Advisor to the Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister, Abraham Iyambo. He also revealed that the ministry last year visited Singapore and signed a contract to supply about four million pacific oysters per month. This, according to Forbes, is confirmation that there is a market for aquaculture produce in the world. Taking the global view, aquaculture has become a dynamic industry with projections that developing countries will dominate the fishing industry by the year 2020, he said. He added that Namibia could intensify its activities in the production of this fish type for export. Other than that, Namibia has many potential species for local consumption and export as well. Fresh water fish with potential are carp and red claw crayfish. A team of eight to ten people at Walvis Bay salt works is employed in oyster cultivating. Recently, a Singaporean business delegation visited Walvis Bay Salt Refiners with a specific interest in oyster farming. This comes at a time when the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) accepted Namibia’s request to export shellfish products to Singapore, according to President Hifikepunye Pohamba in his remarks at a State banquet in honour of visiting Singapore President Sellapan Ramanathan. Another area in which Namibia wants to learn from Singapore is port management as it is considered to have the best deepwater port in western Africa located at Walvis Bay. Ramanathan and the Singapore delegation were in Namibia for the second leg of their African tour. Ramanathan arrived in Namibia last Thursday from South Africa and left for Botswana on Sunday.