UAE farmer, trader, preparing to launch on-land salmon farm pilot
Undercurrent News, 21 Nov 2014
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Asmak, or International Fish Farming Holding Co., has seen a strong turnaround in results in 2014 and is rapidly growing its trading arm, group CEO Mamoon Othman told Undercurrent News.
It is also now just six months to a year away from launching its on-land recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) farm for salmon.
The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange-listed firm is comprised of a seabass and bream farming unit and a trading arm. Since 2012 it has been working to grow the latter, achieving a projected 68% growth in 2014 and with similar expected of it next year, said Othman.
Currently the farming division remains the dominant one in terms of revenue, but the aim is to bring them level.
“The aim is to make the trading arm a ‘one-stop shop’ for UAE seafood. It is present in the EU, Latin America, and Asia as well as locally,” he said.
Its retail brand is currently sold across the UAE, and is expected to enter Syria, Lebanon, Algeria and Tunisia before long. There is great potential in the African market, said Othman, and Asmak has placed an area manager in Egypt with a view to fully capitalize on this.
“Our brand is in Co-op [the Cooperative] and Carrefour there; we sell around 70% of the fresh fish in their Egypt stores too,” he said.
But it is the company’s plans to farm salmon in a closed circulation on-land facility that has caused a stir internationally. The facility, which is close to being ready, cost an estimated AED 100 million ($21.7m), and is required to be able to farm salmon at temperatures much cooler than those found in the sea there.
This facility will be the first of its kind in the region, and Asmak has watched other similar facilities with interest, particularly Danish Salmon, said Othman.
“More government support for aquaculture in the region would be good,” said the CEO. “In ten years there has been very little growth in the sector – fishing has grown more, which is not right when we hear we need farming to feed the world. Subsidies on feed, fingerlings, advanced regulations, would all help farming at commercial scale.”
The recirculation system has proven attractive to investors as it is more stable and controlled than fishing in the sea.
The company has claimed the new site will cut the cost of salmon in the UAE by 30% to 50%, reducing reliance on imports from markets such as Norway and Ireland.
The farm will cover an area of 500,000 square metres and produce 4,000 metric tons of fish a year. Barramundi and subaiti will also be cultivated, while an expansion to Asmak’s bream farming operation will also be developed.
In addition to the land based farm, the company announced the development of 50 further sea cages, covering an area of 250,000 sq. meters to produce popular local fish hamour (similar to grouper) and sea bream.
The farm is also intended to host a processing plant with a production capacity of 800- 1,000 metric tons per year, and employ 17- 22 people.
2014 has brought vastly improved financial results for Asmak, with sales revenue in the first half of 2014 totaling AED 164.1 million ($45m). This was up 23% from AED 133.4m for the same period in 2013.
Net profit reached AED 10.7m ($2.9m), a dramatic turnaround from a net loss of AED 12.5m.
In the first nine months of 2013, by contrast, Asmak made net losses of AED 14.3m on revenues of AED 194m.