Highlands Trout started the first exports of the fish from land-locked Lesotho to Japan, boosting an economy that depends on diamonds, clothing and selling water to South Africa.
The first batch of the commercially farmed fish was sent to Japan last week, Stuart Slabbert, the company’s project manager, said in an interview at Lesotho’s Katse Dam on Nov. 16. Highlands Trout has the capacity to produce about 4,000 metric tons or $20 million of fish a year, he said.
“We will target Japan where there’s a huge demand for trout,” Grant Merrick, general manager at the Highlands Trout fish farm, said in a presentation to bankers.
Lesotho receives 46 million rand ($5 million) to 54 million rand a month from neighboring South Africa for Katse Dam water used by mines and factories in Gauteng province, according to Zodwa Dlamini, South Africa’s chief delegate to the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission. Its economy is otherwise dependent on diamond mining and the low-cost production of clothes, often for U.S. brands.
Highlands Trout employs 60 people at its operations, which were renovated from engineering workshops used during the construction of Africa’s second-highest dam wall during the 1990s. Private investors put up the funds for the business, Slabbert said, declining to say who they are. The company is co-owned by aquaculture investment groups Advance Africa Management Services and Pure Ocean Aquaculture, according to its website.
South Africa’s aquaculture industry produces about 4,500 tons of fish a year, Slabbert said. The company imports fish eggs from the U.S. and Denmark while importing feed from France, he said.