The idea of Japanese consumers eating sushi exported from a tiny African country with no coastline may sound improbable, but the kingdom of Lesotho is pulling it off. Highlands Trout, based in Lesotho produces trout – or river salmon to the Japanese market – in reservoirs created by the Katse and Mohale Dams.
Following a feasibility study in 2008 and mobilizing in 2009, the company now has a five-year operating license and plans to increase production volumes for exports to Japan.
The full chain from hatchery to processing is based in Lesotho, and required much education and skill teaching to get off the ground.
Currently at just over 1,500 metric tons of production in the Katse Dam, this is planned for an increase to 4,000t by 2018, plus 2,250t in Mohale. Though 5% of current harvest is sold within Lesotho, the product is mainly a luxury item sent out to Japan.
“Made in Africa sushi” is a new twist in the African/Asian trade story, offering hope that a poor, land-locked country can tap its natural resources to produce and export a high-value product to discerning consumers.
In contrast, Norway’s developing salmon-farming industry brings in NOK 5 billion (8.71B Rand) each year from the growing Japanese desire for raw salmon on sushi (a Norwegian invention).
Fish farming in Africa has the benefits of being able to learn from industries elsewhere and so learn from their mistakes. The most important thing, as several speakers mentioned at the conference, is to make farmed fish affordable if it is to actually help food security.
“The opportunities in Africa are ‘x times’ greater than everywhere else,” said Bob Geldof. “The Chinese see it, they’ve been jumping in there even as the West has tried to go crawling to China.” Africa is truely the next big aquaculture hub.