AAfter years of dismal financial performance, state-owned Fishcor is on a mission to become one of the dominant players in the domestic fishing industry.
Since 2014, the company has been recording profits over N$39 million, and although critics in the fishing sector continue to cast aspersions that the preferential treatment dished out to Fischor by government puts the firm in a position of advantage when compared to its peers in the private sector, Fishcor managing director Mike Nghipunya says “privileges still need to be managed well to ensure success”.
“You can get all the privileges in the world, but if you do not manage it prudently and responsibly, failure is guaranteed,” he said during an interview.
Give us a brief introduction of Fishcor and why is there a need for this company?
The need for the establishment of Fishcor is very well articulated in the Fishcor Act. When the government calls for value addition in the fishing sector and fishing companies claim it cannot be done, Fishcor is an example that value addition is possible if there is will power
Fishcor is owned by the government and it has the four operating subsidiaries. Three are currently operational and the fourth one is the one that is currently being set up in Walvis Bay. We have a fish processing factory in Lüderitz. About 520 people are employed at the factory.
We are also the only company with a lobster processing factory in Lüderitz.
All the lobster catchers process their lobsters at our factory and we market their lobsters. We are still busy constructing the horse mackerel factory in Walvis Bay which will be the first of its kind. It will also be the largest factory of its kind in Southern Africa and will create employment for around 700 people. The project cost upon completion will be N$530 million.
The factory should be commissioned by the end of September 2018, should everything goes according to plan.
If you have research and development that needs to be done in the fishing business we can step in, hence our importance in the industry.
How is the composition of the company’s assets?
The asset portfolio at the moment is valued at around N$500 million, we expect this grow by 20 percent in the new financial year because of new investments and acquisitions that we are making. In the next few years, I am sure we will be close to the billion-dollar mark in terms of asset value.
What are some of the assets that the company owns?
We have about four vessels currently, three wet trawlers and one freezer trawler. Plans are underway to procure two more wet trawlers and additional factories in Luderitz, including the one that is under construction in Walvis Bay. Those are our assets in a nutshell.
In terms of cooperate social responsibilities, how is the company faring?
We are very committed to developing the communities in which we operate. We have a social responsibility plan which we budget for annually. We budget around N$1 million annually per year. However for the past three financial years we have been spending more than N$1.5 million. The highlight of our social responsibilities was when we sponsored the national team Hockey team to the tune of N$ 1.5 million to participate in the Women’s Indoor Hockey World Cup that took place in Germany. I must say we are proud of their stellar performances.
As we speak we are planning to donate 10 tons of fish to schools in the Oshikoto Region and this handover will be officiated by the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources. We also support soup kitchens in and around Lüderitz every week as well as schools to supplement their school feeding programs.
We also committed ourselves in assisting the Omaheke Governor’s cup tournament where we donated N$ 70 000. Also, together with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, we donated fish towards the food bank.
In your view, how important are corporate social initiatives to make sure the country’s resources trickles down the grassroots?
I would like to think all fishing companies are doing their best in this regard, but it is important that all companies that have fishing rights and quotas should commit a certain percentage of their proceeds to CSI initiatives to benefit poor communities.
But I always maintain that we cannot expect the fishing industry to do everything. I am saying this because I hardly see what the mining or agricultural sector does in terms of CSI.
I personally believe that the fishing sector is stretched when it comes to CSI, thus I call on other sectors to play their role in growing the economy and ensuring that poverty is eliminated in the country.
SOEs normally struggle in terms of performance when compared to private companies, how is Fishcor finding the completion in the fishing industry?
We are all independent companies. The fishing competition in Namibia is for you to handle it in a manner that benefits your operations and you can only survive by being innovative with fish products.
What is Fishcor doing to heed Minister Esau’s call for value addition in the fishing industry?
All the fish we export are value added. Our operation is depended on this because it is an enabler for job creation. In terms of value addition we have partnered with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to set up a processing facility for horse mackerel in Walvis Bay.
Value addition should not just be looked at from the angle of changing the shape of fish, but should be looked at through the broader value addition chain. The government’s call for value addition is meant to stimulate job creation and it is important that we all support it.
What are some of the challenges facing Fishcor?
We are operating in a very sensitive industry. Subsequently, this means we are operating against nature whereby on certain days bad weather hampers fishing and on the other hand we witness the reduction of fish species.
Those are the various challenges that cripple our operations. Another challenge is the distance from Luderitz to the service centers. The cost of doing business is in Luderitz is not the same as the cost of doing business in Walvis Bay or Windhoek.
Can you share with us some of the company’s future plans?
We want to increase the capacity of our vessels and built more factories. This must be coupled with efficiency and profitability by developing the right products.
Last year we launched our strategic plan which runs until 2021. We are monitoring it closely to ensure that we keep track of the objectives.
Other objectives include collaborating with other industry-players, especially those in the horse mackerel business.
Since 2014, we have managed to transform Fishcor from a loss-making entity to one of the most prominent companies in the fishing industry.
We have been able to report profits above N$ 39 million since 2014.
In 2014/15 we made a profit of N$39 million, N$42 million in 2015/16 and we project to report profits in the region of N$67 million for 2016/17 financial year. That is surely substantial and consistent growth when compared to where the company was in the past.
But critics would argue that Fischor ought to record profits because it gets preferential treatment from government. What do you have to say about this?
I agree we get privileges that other fishing companies do not receive, but be that as it may, privileges still need good managers to translate it into good performances. The company had the same privileges before the current management came on board, but the performance back then cannot be compared to what it is today.