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Operation Phakisa gives mussel farm extra muscle

Written by Sulaiman Philip
Operation Phakisa, run by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), has shelled out the resources needed for a mussel farm in Saldanha Bay to thrive.

Mussel aquaculture projects in Saldanha Bay have grown the fishing towns economy and created work (Photo: Innovation NorwayThe African Olive Trading mussel farm has grown from a handful of rafts working five hectares of ocean space into an agro-processing business with its own 30-hectare farm.

The 100 per cent black-owned company can now flex its muscles and break into bigger markets to sell the 500 tons it harvests. With help from the blue economy programme, African Olive Trading and its new entity, Gallo Group, were able to open a processing plant in Velddrif, a small fishing town 90 minutes from Cape Town.

Chairperson of the Gallo Group and GM of African Olive Trading Nolan Adams praised Operation Phakisa for helping to make them the biggest 100 per cent black-owned mussel farm in the country. As a small player, they were unable to process their entire catch and bigger companies with their own factories did not want African Olive’s mussels. Therefore, whatever was not processed or sold fresh went to waste.

Thanks to Operation Phakisa, the company has now entered the agro-processing space. Its new processing plant employs 55 workers. Another eight work the company’s 11 rafts. More importantly, African Olive’s entire catch is sent to Gallo, where it is processed and marketed.

Aquaculture a priority

With help from DAFF, the company accessed grant funding through the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme. Adams says the company is looking to add 19 more rafts and a boat by 2019.

The department has taken the lead in helping build this aquaculture project. It is now one of 36 registered Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy aquaculture projects.

Aquaculture is one of four priority sectors involving the wealth of South Africa’s oceans on which the government is focussing. The others are marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, marine protection services and ocean governance.

For 21-year-old Farren Marcus, Operation Phakisa has changed her life. She is a permanent employee at the new processing plant. “This job has made a big difference because I needed the money. I am going start studying next year.”

Black economic empowerment

African Olive Trading is not the only success story in Saldanha Bay. Imbaza Mussels has also benefited from a collaboration between DAFF and the Department of Public Works and the National Ports Authority (TNPA).

Imbaza, a majority BBBEE project, received a 15-year water-space lease from the TNPA and a long-term land lease from Public Works. The company has a packing facility for fresh mussels caught from their five rafts and received funding from the Aquaculture Development and Enhancement Programme run by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Operation Phakisa is about more than just funding companies. An amount of R80 million has been earmarked to rehabilitate small harbours in Gansbaai, Struisbaai, Gordons Bay and Lamberts Bay. The Saldanha Bay harbour will also get a facelift to match the developing industrial base in the town. 

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