Fisheries industry takes new tack


Papua New Guinea’s fisheries sector is responding to the demands of its global market.

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‘Tuna exporting is no longer a pricing game: it’s now all about sustainability and traceability,’ says the Managing Director of R D Tuna, Pete Celso. R D Tuna, PNG’s largest canning company, is currently being considered for accreditation under the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainability and traceability policies, says Celso, also Vice Chairman of the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association.

‘From almost zero capability several years back in terms of monitoring and guarding fish stock activities, PNG has undergone major improvements and capabilities that can probably be considered the best so far in the Pacific Region,’ he says.

Major player

Papua New Guinea is the largest tuna fishery in the world, accounting for about 17% of the world’s tuna catch in 2010.

Frozen tuna made up 50% of exports, followed by canned tuna, cooked loins, fish meal and chilled tuna.

The main markets for PNG tuna are the European Union for canned tuna and cooked loins; and Thailand, the Philippines, American Samoa and Japan for frozen tuna. Chilled tuna goes to Japan, while fish meal goes mainly to Australia, Sri Lanka and Japan. Under an Economic Partnership Agreement, PNG has tariff-free access to the EU trading zone. Exports to the EU in 2012 are expected to be double 2010’s levels. There is also a healthy domestic market for tuna.

At the time of writing, PNG had just resumed talks with the United States over the South Pacific Tuna Treaty, which governs US access to fisheries in a number of Pacific Island EEZs. PNG wants an immediate increase in licence fees and a better pricing formula in the future, and was able to secure some concessions from the US in order for negotiations to resume. It is also lobbying for duty free access to the US market for its canned tuna and other tuna products.

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RD Tuna Canners and Philippines-owned Frabelle PNG Ltd currently lead PNG’s canning industry, with both operating multi-million dollar plants in the Lae and Madang areas. Other major players include the International Food Corporation, which makes and distributes Besta canned mackerel, South Pacific Seafood, a PNG–Philippines joint venture, and Ailan Seafood Ltd, a fish processing company based in Kavieng, New Ireland Province.

Processing expands

There are currently two major new onshore fish processing facilities being created on Papua’s northern coastline. The 350 tonnes-per-day Majestic Seafoods cannery in Lae is a joint venture between Frabelle, Thai Union of Thailand and Century Canning from the Philippines, while Niugini Tuna Limited, a joint venture between R D Tuna, Tri-Marine International of the US and Fairwell Fisheries of Taiwan, will add 200 tonnes of daily capacity in Madang.

Economies of scale

The planned Pacific Maritime Industrial Zone in Madang is expected to create economies of scale for the fish processing industry, by hosting more players and attracting investors from France, the Philippines, China and other countries. Funded by a US$71 million concessional loan from China and PNG Government funds, it is expected to host large tuna plants and employ thousands of people. The zone will provide wharfing, berthing, processing and other facilities and will be suitable not only for the fisheries sector but other industries too.

Beyond tuna

PNG’s coastal fishing industry focuses on prawns, lobsters, barramundi, beche-de-mer, trochus shells, pearl shell and green snail. A rising number of aquaculture farms are producing mainly tilapia and carp, while barramundi is also being farmed at the Western Province Sustainable Aquaculture Project.

This article first published in Business Advantage PNG 2012/2013

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