The Blue Karoo Trust (BKT) freshwater aquaculture facility in Graaff Reinet has started a R23,5m construction project that includes three additional ponds, a commercial scale hatchery and a pre-processing line. This is a pre-cursor to building a processing facility, which will make it one of the biggest aquaculture investments in South Africa to date.
“This is an exciting addition to the Karoo Catch brand, which provides an alternative for rapidly declining fish stocks, as a result of climate change, overfishing and pollution. The Karoo Catch brand is based on fish farming, rather than harvesting wild fish stocks, which guarantees a reliable and sustainable supply of fish,” commented Phakamisa George, Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) risk capital specialist.
The R23,5m construction project started in February this year and is a part of the BKT’s larger R100m “commercial Phase 1.” The trust has submitted an application to the National Treasury Job Fund ‘agriculture round’ for R50m to implement this phase at full capacity. The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) has already approved R5,4m to assist in the construction of the processing plant.
Currently, the R250m catfish farm operates a small-scale hatchery and two aquaculture ponds, one for practical training and one for production, which are capable of producing 264 tons/year of fish. However the farm currently transports its wares in refrigerated trucks to a processing plant that is equipped to process the catfish in retort pouches in the Western Cape.
George said, “Due to the increase in demand, the need for an in-house processing factory was inevitable. As such, ECDC approached the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) Employment Creation Fund to contribute to the construction of a processing factory.”
Once Phase 1 is complete, the initiative would have ten aquaculture production systems, a commercial-scale hatchery, a processing facility and small-scale training facilities for both farming and factory operations. This will be able to produce 2,640 tons/year of catfish affording a “nutritional and shelf-stable food source” to 275,000 people according to the ECDC, as well as creating a 815 jobs.
“From the moment the BKT asked for the development financier’s help in 2006, we were always confident that it would play a catalytic role in growing the infant aquaculture industry in the Eastern Cape. High impact initiatives such as this, place the province in an advantageous position to challenge the Western Cape’s dominance of the sector,” George noted.
By Jenni McCann