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R9m fillip for Karoo fish farm

Major investment will enable project to double production and employ more staff

MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane feeds catfish in one of the grow-out tunnels at the Karoo Catch fish farm, while Dr Beyers Naude Municipality mayor Deon de Vos, left, and Sarah Baartman district department director Thembani Nyokana look on
MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane feeds catfish in one of the grow-out tunnels at the Karoo Catch fish farm, while Dr Beyers Naude Municipality mayor Deon de Vos, left, and Sarah Baartman district department director Thembani Nyokana look on
Image: Supplied

As part of an economic transformation strategy for agriculture, the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform has invested R9.1-million in a fish farm in Graaff-Reinet.

Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane yesterday visited the Karoo Catch fish farm in the town, where the department has invested funds to construct three grow-out tunnels for the farm to double production.

With the addition of these recently completed tunnels, the fish farm will be able to produce 120 tons of catfish each month instead of the current 60 tons.

“I am quite thrilled to see [this kind of enterprise] in a rural area like this,” Qoboshiyane said after his visit to the farm.

“Our intention is to create our own oasis in the Karoo area, and I am challenging the private sector to come and invest.”

The department’s investment, allocated as part of the 2017-18 budget, also contributed to skills development and incubating new aquaculture farmers.

“I’m very grateful for the training [provided],” Qoboshiyane said.

“The farm employs 102 people from the community. We need to sustain rural development and rural economies, and this is one success story.”

One of the employees, senior supervisor Francis Martin, said the department’s support had made a huge difference in her life.

“I have worked here since 2010 and [this opportunity] has made a huge change,” Martin, 40, said.

“Before this, I was working in Cape Town as a security guard, but this is a lot more rewarding.

“When I started here, we had courses in English and aquaculture, and also learnt computer and life skills.

“I believe it is going to be the same for others with the inclusion of the new tunnels and the factory.

“More people will be employed and the circle of poverty will be broken.”

Karoo Catch general manager Ken Light said funding had already been provided for 32 more people to be trained to work on the farm.

According to Light, the ultimate goal is to transfer ownership of the tunnels to the farmers being trained by the department.

“What will happen is that Karoo Catch will produce the fish through the hatchery, take it to the grow-out tunnels or grow-out farmers, and they in turn will sell their stock back to Karoo Catch to be processed in the factory,” he said.

“It will then be sold to retail outlets.”

The fish farm sells to Pick n Pay, SPAR and OVK stores in Graaff-Reinet.

Light said the business was in talks with the Department of Education to be included in the school nutrition programme.

“We made an approach through the Eastern Cape and Western Cape education departments to help us apply through the national department in terms of our products,” he said.

“We think that nutritionally our products match their products.”

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