Saldanha Bay, Oyster, mussel farming ‘would provide jobs’
SOUTH Africa is missing an opportunity to grow the west coast oyster and mussel farming sector, as the sector’s expansion is hampered by red tape, incomplete implementation of financial support policies, slow processing of mandatory product safety sampling and poor facilitation of access to global markets, according to research released on Friday by the University of Stellenbosch.
Another hindering factor was the “injuriously high” water lease fees levied by the local harbour, which was owned by a Transnet affiliate, according to the research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Food Security.
The west coast mussel farming sector could provide jobs to between 940 and 2,500 people around Saldanha Bay, according to the research.
The expansion of the sector would help the town, which had suffered from job losses following the recent downscaling of the west coast anchovy, pilchard and hake fisheries.
The sector was labour intensive, especially in its short December-January peak season, and had demand for low-skilled labour, the research found.
Saldanha’s population had grown 29% between 2001 and 2010, unemployment there “far exceeds” the national average of 25%, and 64% of households lived on R3,200 or less a month, according to the research.
Saldanha’s natural environment was “exceptionally conducive to the rapid growth and superior quality of bivalves (mussels and oysters)” because the bay formed part of the Benguela Large Marine Ecosystem that provided nutrient-rich waters, creating an environment suitable for bivalves, wrote sociology masters student David Olivier.
It was estimated the 345ha allocated for bivalve aquaculture in Saldanha Bay was capable of sustainably producing 12,470-33,253 tons of live bivalves a year, 10-28 times the present production, Mr Olivier wrote.
Aquaculture — the farming of organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants — was pinpointed in the industrial policy action plan and the New Growth Path as a government priority, with a view to developing small businesses and jobs. The Western Cape produced 61% of the tonnage produced by aquaculture in South Africa, and 83% of its total value in 2009 when R272m worth of output (R243m in exports) was produced, according to a draft Western Cape aquaculture market analysis document released last year.
Two-thirds of the country’s aquaculture farms are in the Western Cape.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies earlier this year, with Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, finalised and tabled a National Aquaculture Strategic Framework aimed at increasing South Africa’s global market share, promoting broad-based black economic empowerment, encouraging research and development, and strengthening small businesses in the sector.
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