Trade Success No.17: UNIMA Group - Prawns export from Madagascar to the European Union allowing continued sustainable and equitable expansion

"Trade Success" is a series about stories of entrepreneurs who benefit from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and signatory countries of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region. In this 17th issue, we are pleased to introduce to you UNIMA Group, a company based in Madagascar exporting prawns to the EU. Discover how prawns export from Madagascar to the European Union is allowing continued sustainable and equitable expansion while allowing the group to maintain its commitment towards the environment and the economic and social development of Madagascar.

Madagascar lives mainly from its agricultural crops. Rice is the main source of income for the island, the Malagasy being, along with some Asian countries, the largest consumers of this cereal. Madagascar also stands out for its vanilla production, with its harvests constituting a quarter of the world market. These assets of Madagascar are well known and widespread, but another asset of the country is the Madagascar prawn/shrimp.

Madagascar produces one of the best prawns in the world, the most sought after by the great restaurateurs for its gustatory qualities. The main producer of this coveted prawn is the UNIMA Group. The company, owned by the Ismail family, enjoys a well-established international reputation, which allows it to distribute its harvests on the most profitable markets.

About the UNIMA Group:

The UNIMA Group was founded in 1965 by Aziz Hassam Ismail. Originally from India, his family has been established on the Big Island for five generations. The adventure in prawn fishing began in 1973, when Aziz Hassam Ismail - having already successfully developed textile activities in Madagascar with his uncle and cousin - took over Les Pêcheries de Nossi-Bé.

Committed and visionary, the Ismails have placed the preservation of the environment and biodiversity at the heart of their project. After numerous studies conducted since the 1980s, Aziz Ismail and his son Amyne developed the Malagasy aquaculture eco-model. They created several hundred hectares of prawns/shrimps aquaculture ponds, first in the Mahajamba Bay, then in Besalampy.

In 1998, Amyne H. Ismail took over the general management of the UNIMA Group and continued the aquaculture transformation. He initiated the integration and control of the entire production-distribution chain. The adventure began with the creation of a broodstock domestication center, a new larval rearing site, a computer subcontracting company and the total integration of the international distribution of products with subsidiaries established in France, Spain and Portugal, representing Malagasy investments in the European Union. It continues with the creation of an aquaculture feed production plant and a cooking workshop near Boulogne sur Mer, in the Hauts de France.

Pursue sustainable and equitable expansion, while maintaining a commitment to the environment and the economic and social development of Madagascar:

UNIMA is a builder group that wishes to leave to future generations a sustainable and inclusive economic model. The Group produces with passion and responsibility and assumes its environmental responsibility by participating in the preservation of biodiversity, in partnership with the Malagasy State, the development institutions of France, the European Union, the World Bank and non-governmental organizations such as UNICEF, the World Wildlife Fund and Blue Ventures.

The Group is committed to an innovative ecological and social approach. These commitments have been widely acclaimed by international NGOs with which it has worked for years.

In addition, in order to guarantee a sustainable model and offer consumers the means to eat in a healthy and sustainable way, UNIMA is doing everything possible to limit its carbon footprint. Indeed, the Group has reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 35% from 2007 to 2019 and plans to go even further by 2026. UNIMA has invented an eco-responsible model where its farms are surrounded by mangroves. To date, UNIMA has planted 2.7 million trees, reduced packaging through careful selection, and is protecting the forests and preserving the mangroves. 

The company is heavily involved in community development. Located in remote regions of Madagascar, UNIMA's sites are at the heart of local development dynamics. The Group builds and manages infrastructures that give village communities access to education and health care. It also contributes to sanitation, access to drinking water, energy and the development of food crops near its sites. It works hand in hand with local communities to build a sustainable future, mobilizing all the resources at their disposal.

A "collective intelligence" pushes UNIMA to organize the work in a regulatory and respectful way. Hiring is only done from the age of 18, reduction of working hours, dispensaries, mutual insurance, etc. For UNIMA, it is above all a commitment to solidarity for the employees, by setting up social benefits that are higher than the minimum in the country, and by contributing in a continuous way to the improvement of their working conditions and personal development.          

Key facts about UNIMA Group:

  • Founded in 1965 by Aziz Hassam Ismail.
  • Creation of 3000 jobs, 4800 indirect jobs (trade, crafts, local industry, handling, port, logistics, transport, etc.) in Madagascar and employs about 50 people in Europe.
  • 6 fishing boats and 1 cashew nut plantation.
  • The Group is the leading exporter on the island with catches of 5,000 tons per year.
  • The distribution activity of the UNIMA Group has a turnover of approximately 80 million euros per year.
  • 95% of exports are sent to the EU (France 80%, Spain 8% and Portugal 7%). The Group also exports to the United Kingdom, China and Japan.

Main achievements over the years:

  • Since its creation, the Group has invested a total of 175 million euros in Madagascar and generates a significant contribution to the country's balance of trade, with export revenues of more than 78 million euros in 2021 - 100% from exports.
  • The Group has developed a broodstock center, a larval development center, a second breeding farm in Besalampy, a cooking workshop in France, a prawn feed production workshop, an IT company and a distribution network in France.
  • In 2004, the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food granted the Red Label (Label Rouge) certification to UNIMA's prawn, the first non-European agribusiness company to obtain this prestigious label. The Group then started to farm certified organic prawn.
  • In 2016, UNIMA was the first shrimp/prawn farm in Africa to obtain ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) certification, which recognizes production according to demanding environmental and social standards.
  • In terms of environmental protection and community development, UNIMA has implemented:
    • tree planting campaigns since 1998 (2.7 million trees planted to date)
    • a carbon assessment (2007), renewed in 2019;
    • a first school (1994), 7 today near its sites, with more than 2,000 children attending school each year;
    • a first medical dispensary (1994), 10 today, with 26,000 consultations per year;
    • a Mother and Child Center (2021), with 200 births per year.

How did the EPA help ?

Exports to the EU, representing 95% of the company's exports, have allowed the company to take off and maintain its activities for 50 years. The Red Label certification of UNIMA's prawn by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food in 2004 has allowed the Group to stand out as a company recognized worldwide for the production of an eco-responsible prawn, exceptional in nature, with outstanding culinary qualities.

« …privileged access to the European market for UNIMA's products, which are duty free through the EPA, has allowed us to pursue a sustainable and equitable expansion, while maintaining a commitment to the environment and the economic and societal development of Madagascar… »


Mr. Amyne H. Ismail, President of the Group

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