Merger set to boost productivity
‘I firmly expect that the merger with HB Grandi will serve to boost productivity even further. This is a company that is a leader in its field, with a great workforce and very little superstructure. The advantage of the merger with HB Grandi is that there is a very effective sales group there and the association with such a respected name will certainly boost an already well-run operation,’ said Eiríkur Vignisson, managing director at Vignir G Jónsson hf in Akranes.
The company takes its name from Eiríkur Vignisson’s father who also founded the company that traces its origins back to 1970.
‘Dad used to sell shrimp with a base in London, and this company was established specially to handle Icelandic lumpfish roe. To start with, it was run above a print shop, and I doubt somehow that a licence to run something along those lines would be allowed today,’ he said.
Started with lumpfish roe
Full production of lumpfish roe began in Iceland around 1960, so when Vignir G Jónsson set up his company, this was a product that had already been known for a decade. On the other hand, there are records of exports of lumpfish roe as far back as 1928.
‘Production moved back to Iceland quite quickly and to Akranes. Although it started with lumpfish roe, we quickly started producing other roes for canning, such as cod and capelin roe. Today we are still working with these same products. We probably produce around 600 tonnes of capelin roe, around 400 tonnes of cod roe and the capelin roe production is generally between 400 and 500 tonnes a year,’ Eiríkur Vignisson said, and added that there is some stiff competition for raw material, although this varies from year to year.
Vignir G Jónsson hf in Akranes has approximately 3500 square metres of production space available, including both owned and rented space. There is a 40-strong workforce, plus a large number of students who have often been called for temporary shifts when there is a need for extra hands in production.
‘We have year-round production here, although there are always certain peak periods. The capelin roe season is in February and March, and we are always busy with lumpfish roe up to Christmas. Markets are very diverse. Lumpfish roe goes mainly to northern and central Europe, and we are also starting to supply lumpfish roe to a growing market in China. Capelin roe is sold mainly to the US and to Europe, which is also our main market for cod roes,’ he said, adding that most of the cod roe processing is pre-production. Buyers then complete the production process themselves and pack it for their own markets.
There have been fluctuations in the price and sales of salted lumpfish roe over the years.
Eiríkur Vignisson said that Icelandic fishermen and producers handling lumpfish roe are currently at the bottom of a price trough.
‘It’s simply that supply dictates product prices. It’s as simple as that. If there is good fishing, then the price falls. The laws of supply and demand apply as much here as in any business,’ Eiríkur Vignisson said.