SA’S MARINE MONEY-SPINNER
The fascinating price of abalone
Industry players say demand for the pricey, land-farmed sea snail continues to exceed supply, sparking growth and creating sought-after jobs. Red tides and poaching seem to be the only things hurting profits
In a world in which more than half the fish consumed is farmed, SA is poorly represented in all but one area: abalone. "It is the only aquaculture industry in SA of substance and it is growing strongly," says Peter Britz, a Rhodes University professor in ichthyology (the study of fish) and key figure in the industry’s creation about 25 years ago. The SA industry has come a long way and today ranks as the world’s third largest. Its 12 farms — all land-based — have an annual capacity of about 1,400t, with new developments set to boost this to 2,000t by 2020, says Tim Hedges, MD of Hermanus-based Abagold, one of the industry’s biggest players. It’s a lot of abalone, but you’d be hard-pressed to find it in local restaurant. "It is just too expensive for the SA market," says Bertus van Oordt, a director of the 170t/year HIK Abalone Farm in Hermanus. "We only export." The world’s biggest consumers are China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, says Van Oordt. China alone consumes about 85,00...