In spite of restrictions and strict hygiene rules over and above the usual requirements, staff at the Vinnslustöðin (VSV) factory in the Westman Islands have already produced more saltfish this year than in the whole of 2018, and expect to have broken the 2019 figure by the middle of this month.
The Westman Islands have been hit badly by the Covid-19 epidemic. The company had already put in place precautionary hygiene measures even before the virus had reached Iceland, in co-operation with other companies. Staff are required to follow hygiene procedures and to be cautious of personal contacts both at work and in their daily lives.
Despite all this, netters Kap II and Brynjólfur have been fishing well, as has Drangavík, plus additional cod has been sourced from other boats for production.
Between January and the end of March, the saltfish team produced more than in the whole of 2018 and are set to break the 2019 figure this month – and one production day saw 46 tonnes of saltfish handled, which is probably a company record.
Vinnslustöðin became a direct player in the European saltfish market when it acquired specialist saltfish supplier Grupeixe in Portugal some years ago, making it a vertically integrated operation from catching to sales.
Saltfish is seen as a delicacy in Portugal, reserved for holidays and special occasions – and Christmas is the prime market, when Portuguese consumers eat around 5000 tonnes of salted cod on Christmas Eve – equivalent a green weight of 12,000 tonnes of fish.
VSV’s current production is geared mainly towards the Christmas market at the end of this year, although saltfish sales are also reported to have remained strong in Portugal despite the Covid-19 pandemic gaining a foothold there.