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Goolwa PipiCo is expanding to target Asian and European export markets


Goolwa PipiCo has partnered with the indigenous Ngarrindjeri people to process and market their wild caught pipis around Australia and the world.

The company is based in South Australia and harvests its Southern Ocean pipis along the pristine beaches of the Coorong, near the mouth of Australia’s largest river, The Murray.

Goolwa PipiCo currently processes about 400 tonnes of pipis a year, about half of Australia’s total commercial pipi catch. The majority is sold live through wet markets and wholesalers before being served up on restaurant plates in Sydney and Melbourne. However, the development of modified atmosphere packaging in 2014 has allowed the pipis to be sold in 1kg supermarket packs that have a 10-day shelf life, double that of loose product.

Managing Director Tom Robinson said Goolwa PipiCo was the only consumer-facing producer that marketed pipi under a brand in Australia and had national distribution through Woolworths and Costco.

He said the longer shelf life also created export opportunities.

“Up until then everything had been sold loose – we now sell over a quarter of all our catch in that packaged format,” Robinson said.

“The most important thing it does is it allows a retailer to put it in front of a customer in a pack that’s not going to leak on their way home and we can brand it and people start to rely on the brand.

“The Chinese market in particular places a premium on brands – they’ll pay good money for wine or beef with a strong brand and we don’t think our pipis should be any different – they are harvested from the same pristine waters as our Southern Rock Lobster, which is an ultra-premium product sold into Asia.”

Goolwa PipiCo was incorporated in 2014 and is a collaboration between five fishing families in the Goolwa region near the River Murray mouth in South Australia.

It handles 60 per cent of South Australia’s total allowable catch, which is set at 650 tonnes in 2019. South Australian pipis account for about 75 per cent of Australia’s commercial pipi fishery. The pipi are harvested along a 70km stretch of Coorong coast by about 15 fishermen using rakes.

The area is one of the few clam fisheries in the world with Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification recognising sustainable practices and a commitment to maintaining the region’s pristine natural environment.

The pipi are then processed in the nearby seaside town of Port Elliot, about 80km south of the South Australian capital Adelaide.

Last month Goolwa PipiCo was promised up to $489,335 by the South Australian government to expand its operation to process and package extra wild catch pipis supplied by Ngarrindjeri fishers.

The Ngarrindjeri people have harvested pipi on the Coorong coast for 10,000 years but this is their first foray into commercial clam fishing.

Robinson said the Ngarrindjeri hoped to expand its quota from its current level of 5 per cent of the fishery over time. This would take the Goolwa PipiCo’s share of the market in South Australia to up to 90 per cent and almost 70 per cent nationally, the company reported.