The much needed expansion of MIFCO

After years of operating at a loss, the state-owned fish company, with the acquisition of new facilities, may be poised to step out of the red.

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The Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) is the state-owned enterprise that exports most of the pole-and-line fish caught in Maldivian waters, and has been a lifeline for most of the Maldivian fisherman that traverse these blue waters. Such state-owned companies operate under national policies seeking to ensure that Maldivian fishermen are compensated for their work and MIFCO has been operating at a loss for over five years. However, with their most recent acquisition, they intend to change that narrative.

Last week, news that MIFCO has obtained a fish processing facility on the island of Funaddoo in Thaa Atoll has been clarified in a question session during a parliament sitting. This island used to belong to former Home Minister Ahmed Thasmeen, who had developed the island as a processing facility, but the enterprise had been left on hold since 2008.

The news came about when the current Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture, Dr. Hussain Rasheed Hassan was questioned by Member of Parliament for Thimarafushi, Abdulla Riyaz, on the matter. The island was repossessed by the bank after the previous owner defaulted on payments on a loan taken from the Bank of Maldives with the island as security, and was announced as up for sale. The Minister announced that the govenrment then bought the island from the bank and has transferred all rights to MIFCO to conduct their operations as of 6 March, 2022. 

According to the Minister, a feasibility study was done on the island, and inclusive facilities, to ensure MIFCO utilises the newfound assets at maximum efficiency. Processing over sixty tons of fish a day with a capacity to hold 200 tons at any given time, MIFCO had been running at a loss by buying more than they could process and being forced to sell the excess abroad at prices that were not valued optimally. The new facilities are intended to circumvent this situation and allow more profitability in their enterprise.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had pledged to make MIFCO a profitable company within two years, after the findings in 2019 regarding MIFCO’s losses incurred prior. This shift would give MIFCO a further leg up in the industry where a few private companies are also competing, yet the difference that MIFCO does not put a cap on the amount of fish they buy, as compared to the restrictions by private companies, gives the company only a small lead in this regard. Fisheries in the Maldives is driven by value rather than volume; the advantage of being an entirely pole-and-line industry provides an incentive within global markets compared to the local customer base.

MIFCO has, as yet, to release updated capacity measures and output once the facilities on Funaddoo are operational. 

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