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Seafood leader confronts challenges – Moana New Zealand

“It’s about being responsible and respectful about the way we use the resource, utilising it as fully as we can”

Mark Ngata - General Manager

Moana New Zealand has launched an online shop where Aucklanders can purchase the company’s high quality seafood and have it delivered direct to their home.

The move was partly in response to the challenges thrown at the industry by Covid-19, says company general manager of the Inshore division, Mark Ngata.

“Since Covid-19 people’s mindset has changed in terms of how they shop and eat. An online store was always in the pipeline but Covid-19 gave this more impetus,” he explains.

The online shop was launched in November last year and has been well-received by the public, he says. The aim is to add more products and make purchasing available nationally.

2020 was a challenging year for the company, which is one of the largest Māori organisations in the country. Moana New Zealand is the second biggest seafood company by quota volume and value and the biggest Māori-owned seafood company overall.

Mark says that all species business units apart from fin fish (ika) were significantly impacted by the pandemic. Operating earnings before tax and interest were down on plan by 42% due to the hospitality industry’s exposure to Covid-19 and falling demand, as well as the impact of border closures and reduced international airfreight capacity.

With China being the company’s fourth largest market, when this suddenly closed with live and chilled seafood sales ceasing immediately due to the outbreak Moana New Zealand’s market strategy required swift diversification.

“Our koura and pāua divisions were impacted most. Strategising involved export market downturn mitigation. We achieved this by recalibrating domestic versus offshore market ratios and restricting our fishers and divers. Our inshore team worked with suppliers to understand consumer demands and provide solutions for customers in relation to what our fishers and divers could supply. We investigated new distribution channels and fulfilment was pleasing,” says Mark.

Despite these challenges he says that the company’s balanced portfolio demonstrated tremendous resilience through a combination of strong domestic and Australian trade demand for ika, reduction in operating costs, exploration of new channels to market and the commitment of staff.

“Our priority was our people,” says Mark. “As an essential service we needed to continue to operate to feed the nation and the world with a healthy source of protein.

“We had to ensure we had systems and procedures in place to keep our people safe – physically and mentally.”

Mark expects 2021 to be as challenging as last year, if not more so as many countries overseas still continue to battle with the virus. This has meant strong relationships with export markets have been key. Impact on airfreight has led to substantial cost increases.

“These are not expected to improve until country entry restrictions are lifted. Initially airfreight was exceedingly hard to access but since May several destinations have returned to some normality.

“Airfreight rates remain high although not at peak levels, which were up to three times higher than standard rates in the first few months of the pandemic. But they are still tracking at double the cost. Collaboration with competitors, partners and customers in sharing airfreight costs has been beneficial and free onboard returns for live and chilled products airfreighted are tracking significantly lower than they were before Covid-19.”

This has seen Moana New Zealand continuing to innovate. A new range of ready-to-eat supermarket meals will be launched mid-year.

The company is trialling chilled and frozen tray products into target export markets. It is also investigating the potential for fish by-products, which would normally be considered a waste stream, for example collagen from fish skin.
“It’s about being responsible and respectful about the way we use the resource, utilising it as fully as we can,” explains Mark.

Sustainability is a key part of the Moana New Zealand story and reflects the four pillars on which the organisation is established: Whakapapa (genealogy), Manaakitanga (looking after people), Kaitiakitanga (being custodians for future generations) and Whakatipuranga (prosperity for future generations).

Moana New Zealand products include Pāua Kahurangi (Blue Abalone), Pāua Tūwā (Wild Abalone), Ika (Fin Fish), Koura (Lobster), Tio (Oyster) and Kai Ora (Ready to Eat Meals).

New Zealand is the company’s largest market, followed by Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Europe and North America.

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