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Will Marine Stewardship Council certification change the playing field for cape hake?

Northern European markets currently remain closed to Namibian hake due to a lack of certification.

There has been strong demand for cape hake in Northern Europe this year, particularly Germany and the Netherlands, Sea Harvest Sales and Marketing Director Konrad Geldenhuys told IntraFish.

At the moment, the region is served by Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified South African hake, but the market is eager for its more northerly counterpart from the Namibian hake fishery to complete the same process.

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The MSC assessment of the 154,000-metric-ton Namibian hake trawl and longline fisheries began in February, and a final report on the fishery is expected next May.

"There seems to be growing market interest in the certification of Namibian hake, which is perhaps unsurprising," Michael Marriott, MSC representative for South Africa, told IntraFish. "In the case of the South African fishery, being MSC-certified has helped the fishery to secure existing markets, and facilitated expansion into new markets."

According to a study conducted by the MSC, more than 35 percent of the South African fishery's value is attributed to certification.

While expecting certification will open up new markets, Peter Pahl, CEO of Nambian hake supplier Seawork is less sure of the dramatic impact the certification will have on value.

"I don't see a big change... not a euro a kilo more for our product, but less dependency on traditional markets," Peter Pahl told IntraFish. "At the moment, Spain buys a big part of our product, so Namibia is quite dependent on the Spanish market. I think certification will bring more stability to the the market and the prices."

Seawork produces approximately 22,000 metric tons of whole round hake annually in its two Namibian production facilities, and has seen a slowing in its markets for the last two to three years, although "small to no" price fluctuation.

Prices for skin-on fillets are roughly €4.33 ($4.80) per kilogram, and €5.30 ($5.90) for skinless.

Dragging domestic demand

The total allowable catch (TAC) for Namibia's South African counterpart increased by 10 percent in 2019 to around 140,000 metric tons, the maximum increase allowed annually, which is the first in several years of decreases. For deep-sea trawl fisheries, which account for the majority of the TAC, 122,000 metric tons is allowed.

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According to one major supplier of cape hake, demand has remained stable across core and traditional markets, including South Africa, Southern and Northern Europe and Australia, despite increasing inflation-related costs of catching and processing.

Geldenhuys said the international market is particularly strong, but there are challenges facing the domestic market that -- while enabling demand, particularly from foodservice and wholesale markets -- are dampening growth.

"We’ve had slow economic growth and it’s a tough time for South Africa, which reflects on the consumer’s ability to spend, but that’s general and not just a reflection of seafood," he said.

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