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August 06, 2007

Namibia : Export markets open for oyster farmers

Namibian will soon be able to expand its fledgling aquaculture industry and export oysters to the Far East, with Singapore the next destination after China and Hong Kong.

Although the first local oyster cultivation was started 20 years and has expanded to 42 oyster farms in the Atlantic Ocean, stringent health regulations in European countries and the US and the lack of a local testing laboratory have hampered the industry. At present, oysters are sent to a laboratory in South Africa.

This will now change, according to the outgoing Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Andrew Ndishishi. "We have now hired offices in Walvis Bay and staff was appointed, while the equipment has been set up," Ndishishi said. "The testing lab must run for six months before it can receive certification and international accreditation, which will be early next year," he added. "I am on my way to Singapore to finalise export agreements and a team of
from there will come to Namibia this month to test our ocean waters and examine our oyster plants so that we can obtain the green light for export."

Namibian oyster production amounted to six million oysters in 2004, bringing in N$12 million ($1.7 million). The cocktail-size oysters produced in Namibia fetch around N$3 (US 42 cents) each, but they could easily fetch N$12 each when grown to bigger sizes.

About 70 per cent of Namibia's total oyster production is exported to South Africa. Some are flown to China and Hong Kong, where there are fewer import restrictions than in Europe, while the rest are consumed locally.

"Namibia has a definite market advantage it should exploit because oysters grow three times faster here than in Europe," according to an investor in the industry. "In France, oysters take nearly three years to grow to the preferred market size and in Namibia only 9 to 12 months."

Oysters are not naturally found along the Namibian coast and all spat (from which baby oysters are grown) had to be imported from overseas originally. Some local oyster companies have started producing their own spat.

Both the pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) and the European oyster (Ostrea edulis) do well in Namibia.

NamPort has made some 1,250 hectares of sea space available for oyster farmers outside the Walvis Bay port area and three different oyster companies are making use of the space, called Aquapark.

The Namibian

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