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Seawork CEO: Cape hake prices expected to jump

Exec believes there will be an increased focus on value-adding in the years to come.

Demand for Cape hake "rocketed" in recent years, driving up prices, Peter Pahl, CEO of Namibian firm Seawork, said at the North Atlantic Seafood Forum (NASF) in Bergen, Norway, last week.

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The average price of a skinless portion was about €3,500 ($3,735) per metric ton 10 years ago -- today it's sold at €5,000 ($5,336) per metric ton.

"And in my opinion prices will continue to increase by at least 15-20 percent over the next few years," he told the audience at the NASF whitefish seminar.

Looking ahead, Pahl said he believes there will be more and more value-added products on the market.

"The average size of Cape hake in Namibia is rather small compared to other regions and processors have come to realize that the value addition of small fish is vital for the growth and performance of their companies," he said.

New products include moulded loins and recomposed fillets, folded steaks and goujouns.

Another interesting trend, driven by Seawork, is hand filleting. The company introduced it about 10 years ago.

Pahl said advantages include improved yields, improved quality, ability to fillet smaller fish, enhanced appearance and job creation -- which is badly needed in Namibia.

In addition, this will continue to push Cape hake products into higher price brackets, which is offsetting higher labor cost, Pahl said.

MSC certification process well underway

The Namibian Hake Association recently signed an agreement with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for an assessment, Pahl said.

An audit is expected to start at the end of April -- and an MSC notification report already confirmed that there are no major hurdles to a successful certification.

"That doesn't mean that we will get it but it's a good sign," Pahl said.

Total allowable catch for Cape hake -- which includes South Africa and Namibia -- is currently at 301,000 metric tons.

"I expect the TAC of southern African hake to remain within the 280,000 to 310,000-metric ton range over the next few years," Pahl said.

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This article was first published in our NASF 2017 blog. Click here to see the full IntraFish coverage from the event.

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