The Namibian government said it plans to auction its 60 percent share of the country’s annual horse mackerel and hake output as a means of raising funds to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Information released in a government letter seen by Reuters says the funds raised will be used to provide equipment and medicines to tackle the pandemic.

The proposed auction of the government’s fishing quota would be the first of its kind in the country, as its portion is normally reserved for state-owned company Fishcor. The auctioned share is set to be given to the highest bidder by the end of October.

Albert Kawana, the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources said the “government is in need of financial resources on an emergency basis with a view to mitigating the effects of COVID-19.”

According to Kwanne, 40 percent of Horse mackerel (72,000 MT) and Hake (11,000 MT) will be reserved for local companies, while Monk (392 MT) will be auctioned to the highest bidder.

The minister cited the importance of these funds, stating that the country does not produce or manufacture medicines, and as such these medicines are bought using foreign currency.

Prior to this, the Namibian government also reached out to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last month for a 4.5 billion Namibian dollars ($254 million) emergency loan.

For Namibia, fishing is the second biggest export earner after mining and the third-biggest contributor to Namibia’s gross domestic product (GDP) after mining and agriculture.

Namibia has one of the most productive fishing grounds in the world and its territorial water contains around 20 different species such as pilchard, anchovy and horse mackerel, as well as lobster, hake and monkfish. Fishing contributes around N$10 billion ($783 million) in foreign currency earnings annually.

However, in December last year, the fishery industry was hit with corruption allegations as two former ministers and four others were accused of being involved in a scheme to award fishing licences to an Icelandic firm in return for kickbacks.

More so, the coronavirus has halted trade with lockdown and global travel restrictions. With restaurants and hotels closed, the demand for fish has drastically reduced.

So far, Namibia has reported 2,949 cases of COVID-19 and 19 deaths. With these funds, the government hopes to curb the spread of the virus and provide quality treatment for infected cases.

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