A Goulburn district fish farm is destocking some of its facility after a significant downturn in demand due to coronavirus.
The Marianvale Blue Murray Cod farm in the Boxers Creek area, 15km from Goulburn, will continue to operate but directors say the drop in restaurant trade globally is proving challenging.
Director Eliot Silman said a large proportion of the customer base had closed its doors overnight.
"While Coronavirus is affecting Australia's industries differently, all business owners are preparing for long-term uncertainty as we deal with circumstances beyond our control," he said in a statement.
The multimillion farm, established in 2012, is one of the largest producers of native freshwater fish in NSW and supplies to top-end restaurants in Australia and Asia. A total 200,000 tonnes of Murray Cod, sourced from the Riverina as fingerlings, are produced annually.
They take 12 to 18 months to grow to size and are sold via wholesalers and distributors.
The operation, opened by then Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson in 2013, encompasses more than 30 tanks holding 25,000 litres each, plus state-of-the-art associated infrastructure. The company said it prided itself on sustainable supply and a wide range of products. It also employs nine people at the farm.
At the time of its opening it was estimated to be worth $3.5 million to $4.5m to the regional economy.
Mr Silman told The Post that the enterprise had been exporting to Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia and was working on North American markets when COVID-19 hit. About 10 per cent of the product was exported.
But now those avenues were largely inaccessible. Australian restaurants have also closed.
"What's happened overnight is unprecedented," Mr Silman said.
"In the short term, we have no choice but to de-stock whilst exploring avenues to give back to the community."
"Several thousand" kilograms of fish are being donated to Foodbank NSW and ACT, an organisation providing about 70 per cent of food relief help across Australia.
Mr Silman said the company was still selling into some markets and exploring new ones but was also working with other aquaculture producers and Victorian Fisheries to find a home for the fish, if needed.
He could not say how many tonnes of Murray Cod would have to be moved. Instead, he said Marianvale Blue was still "navigating its way" through the situation.
Mr Silman said the nine staff, some of whom lived onsite, still had a job "at this stage."
"We care deeply about our valued staff, and we are working closely with them on a day by day, case by case basis," he said.
"... We are in private consultation with our nine staff, and we are doing whatever we can to support them, including continued security with living arrangements."
Not all staff were from Goulburn.
The company is exploring the federal government's support programs, including the JobKeeper subsidy, to assist the business.
Asked about the future, he told The Post it was very difficult to forecast but hoped for a strong recovery.
"A lot of businesses, including ours, are deeply impacted, and it's essential right now that we support one another and buy local," he said.
Meantime, Foodbank NSW and ACT CEO, Gerry Andersen welcomed the donation, which he said was "a remarkable act of generosity."
"Marianvale needs to be commended for its decision to look beyond the crisis and join forces with us to help make a tangible difference for the vulnerable in our community," he said in a statement.
"Prior to COVID-19, we partnered with over 1,000 charity partners and schools to distribute food to those facing hardship with 373,173 people receiving food assistance each month. We estimate that the need for relief has now doubled across NSW & the ACT."
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