Enhancing capacity to meet international standards
The Gulf of Gabes represents a major anchor point for fishermen in the southern regions of Tunisia. The city of Zarzis is also one of the most important fishing and exporting ports in the country. It therefore comes as no surprise that Gulf Union Marine Products (GUMP), a company specialized in canned crab production, decided to locate its operations in the free-trade zone of Zarzis port.
Officially launched in 2020, GUMP was founded by Thai and Korean partners who recruited Khouloud Abdennaji as the Administrative Manager in Tunisia. GUMP was immersed in preparations for the upcoming crab season when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
“The crab season runs from March to November,” explains Khouloud, “We were ready to open the doors of our newly designed factory on 1st March 2020. But the outbreak of the coronavirus delayed the start of our activities.”
As the company’s administrative manager, Khouloud is the main point of contact for customers, suppliers, local partners, and for the on-site teams.
“The company is growing quite rapidly. We currently have 187 employees. But to be at full capacity, we would need just over 400 employees, including senior technicians, controllers and administrative staff.”
Despite the unexpected delays due to the pandemic, GUMP was able to turn these to its advantage by focusing on improving the factory layout and training staff, ensuring the best technology and hygiene standards on site. It was also an opportunity to fine-tune production and distribution in the supply chain.
“We collect the crabs from the fishermen, ensuring that they have been caught in good conditions and in full compliance with international fishing standards. We work with all the fishermen from the Gulf of Gabes to Djerba and Zarzis. After collection, we start the production process: washing, steaming, cooling at a controlled temperature between 0 and 3 degrees, shucking, and finally sterilization, pasteurization and packaging in cans for each part of the crab.”
The whole production process is extremely controlled and meticulous. One small mistake can risk the entire production chain. The company has a special team of about ten experienced controllers. A long process has been put in place to ensure compliance with hygiene standards, which is currently being validated by HACCP.
In 2021, the Mashrou3i project provided GUMP with an environmental impact study, which was successfully approved by the National Agency for Environmental Protection (ANPE) enabling the company to start activities. It was also a key milestone in the company’s long-term strategy to improve quality, to upgrade production to meet environmental requirements and to carry out activities in a sustainable way.
“An environmental sustainability system ensures the sustainable development of the marine ecosystem and encourages the reproduction of crabs in their natural environment. We are recruiting an expert who will be responsible for assessing the current state of the marine ecosystem along the Tunisian coast and identifying existing crab resources.”
The export business is currently preparing its first large batch for their main market: the United States. Once the crabs arrive at the port, they will be distributed under the brand name “Chicken of the Sea” to specialist outlets and supermarkets.
By promoting access to employment, GUMP is already amongst the companies that are reinforcing Zarzis dynamism. Khouloud Abdennaji takes the company’s vision even further. “For the future, we see the company growing through the extension and diversification of products – octopus for example. We would like to add value to crab waste through the production of natural food powder for farms, but also Chitosan, a component widely used in the cosmetics sector.”