Origin Expands Saithe Business by Adding Salted Cod

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pp 54-55Faroe Origin saw exports of fresh fillets and loins of saithe to Germany double in 2014 following MSC certification for fishery and chain of custody — now extending its range of fresh and frozen seafood to include salted whitefish.

Saithe major Faroe Origin is experiencing significant growth in Germany with shipments of fresh fillets and loins doubled in 2014 compared to the previous year. The rising sales volumes could be linked to the fact that Origin not long ago, in liaison with other Faroese participants in the saithe business, was accredited with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) ecolabels for fishery and chain of custody.

Origin’s six trawlers brought in a total 10,800 tonnes of catch during 2014 to the company’s processing facility at Runavík, slightly short of target, according to CEO Jens Pauli Petersen. “We would like to see somewhat higher volumes this year to meet client demand and make fuller use of our production capacity,” Mr. Petersen said.

“The fact that we’ve seen sales increase twofold over a year in Germany is adding some pressure; at the same time, however, we’re able to control the value chain from catch to shipment.

“For example, we’re briefed on a daily basis regarding the fishing and get detailed information on the current catch of each vessel while they are out at sea.

“We have good access to fishing rights to keep our boats busy throughout the year, although there will always be certain factors that you cannot control — such as the weather, which indeed can and sometimes does affect the fishing. In that respect, we’ve had about three winters in a row with overall bad conditions but on the other hand, we’re confident the turnaround will come soon.”

‘Like clockwork’

Alongside Germany, France is a major market for Faroe Origin’s products of saithe which, apart from fresh fillets and loins, include frozen portions. Other markets for these products include the BeNeLux and Eastern Europe.

The fact that the business is MSC certified seems to be having an effect on sales, Mr. Petersen said.

“For anyone who cannot present good documentation to prove that their seafood is from a resource that is managed sustainably and responsibly, it’s clearly getting more difficult to access the market, and also you need to be able to track your product from catch and processing to shipment and delivery. The MSC is a well respected label in Germany so we decided to work with another fishing company and a seafood trading company to achieve accreditation for the fishery and the chain of custody standard.”

Mr. Petersen took the position of CEO in January this year, after having served as head of production, sales and logistics, with Petra S. Rasmussen replacing him there.

“The number one challenge remains increasing the catch,” he noted, adding that the company’s relentless focus on quality assurance management will continue.

Another challenge has to do with expanding the business and extending the product line by entering an entirely different market — wet salted whitefish, filleted or split. This move is part of the termination of another fish processor’s lease of Origin’s salt fish facility at Toftir, a few minutes’ drive from its headquarters at Runavík.

“We came to the conclusion, together with the processor who leased the facility for a couple of years, that it’s time we move forward and take over the salt fish production ourselves,” Mr. Petersen said.

“It was always part of the plan that we were going to do this at some point. However we want to be sure to manage the process properly so we’re starting slowly and will increase the pace incrementally.”

The raw fish supplies for the Toftir facility — cod and ling, which together account for some 15 percent of the fish caught by Origin’s own fleet of trawlers — will thus be coming from the bycatch of these saithe-targeting trawlers, to be further complemented by purchases from the open market.

“Our concept is becoming more comprehensive now as we offer fresh, frozen and salted seafood,” Mr. Petersen said. “I believe the timing is right as we have now proved our ability to deliver fresh seafood from the Faroes to continental Europe on a weekly basis, by shipping every Thursday to reach markets on the following Monday morning. We’re proud of having achieved this as apparently nobody else has done it before. It’s a different story when it comes to frozen products where we have a solid track record as well, however it’s more of a tradition.

“Yet our foremost resource is our employees on land and at sea. After all, they are the ones who make sure everything runs like clockwork.”