Namibia’s new partnership boosts seafood certification, food safety program

Namibia’s seafood trade has received a major boost from the country’s partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) –  connections that have enabled local development of a food safety and quality assurance system.

IAEA said the system “incorporates nuclear science into quality tests for food and water safety and has allowed the country to make significant progress toward becoming self-reliant in carrying out these tests.”

The partnership, according to Namibian Standards Institution (NSI) General Manager of Testing and Inspection Paloma Ellitson, allows for testing and certification of seafood products within Namibia “with a quicker turnaround time, and can be moved faster to meet demand while preserving the safety and quality of our products.”

IAEA has provided technical support, including capacity building on food safety and testing, acquisition of equipment and associated consumables, expert advice, fellowship, and coordinated international research opportunities.

According to Ellitson, the drive by Namibia to expand its share of the global seafood trade meant the country “needed to first have assurances in place that our products are safe and meet various regulatory requirements.”

Previously, Namibia grappled with inadequate and unstable testing capacity, Ellitson said, with most machines poorly maintained and possessing low testing capability.

“If a machine went down, which happened often, it meant downtimes of up to six months and required outsourcing, which was not only more expensive, but also meant fishery products took longer to certify and ship, leading to longer storage times,” Ellitson explained.

However, Namibia’s partnership with IAEA and FAO has made it possible for the country to acquire “more advanced equipment, trained staff, and expanded services, so fishery and aquaculture products can be tested and certified nationally, with a quicker turnaround time, and be moved faster to meet demand while preserving the safety and quality of our products,” Ellitson noted.  

Namibia has a rich marine fishery resource along its 1,500-kilometer coastline that includes hake, mackerel, crab, and lobster. However, species are at risk of contamination from heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium.

“These inorganic contaminants can be introduced through industrial activities that can harm sea life and make fishery and aquaculture products, like seafood, unsafe for human consumption,” IAEA said.

Namibia’s seafood exports accounted for 10.6 percent of the country’s total national exports for 2019, all valued at NAD 8.53 billion (USD 515 million, EUR 440 million).

“Fish remains the only non-mineral product among the top five list of exports,” said Alex Shimuafeni, Namibia’s statistician general and chief executive officer.

“Spain was by far Namibia’s top export market for fish with the largest share of 35.8 [percent],” he said in the fourth quarter of 2019, citing the Quarterly Statistics Bulletin.

During the period under review, fish continued to demonstrate its significance as one of the country’s major export revenue earner, ranking fourth among the top five major export commodities Fish accounted for 9.5 percent of all the goods exported to the rest of the world,” Elliston said in the last quarter of 2019.

Other export markets for Namibia’s seafood include South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia.

Photo courtesy of Namibian Standards Institution


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