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Expansion Of Fish Processing

PAPUA NEW GUINEA - EU duty free arrangements are helping Papua New Guinea (PNG) to become one of the world's leading fish processing nations sayswww.vasep.com

Specialising in tuna, PNG aims to become a powerhouse by processing a larger catch and encouraging other Pacific nations to send their fish to its canneries.

At present 60 per cent of the world's tuna is caught in the Pacific and, over the past decade, fish processing has become a major employer in PNG.

However, according to PNG's National Fisheries Authority managing director, Sylvester Pokajam, the eight tuna-rich Pacific Island nations, known as the PNA group, have struggled to bring jobs onshore.

In an interview with Radio Australia, Mr Pokajam said he wanted to improve the situation- 'We are looking at the fishery within the PNA of about 1.2 million metric tonnes sustainably harvested every year', he said.

'We want to also extend our call to the Pacific, especially the PNA countries, to earn more from their resources rather than just relying on the access fees so we try to develop in that are to see how we can all work together as one group to benefit together.'

Radio Australia's Pacific Economic and Business reporter, Jemima Garrett said PNG could still become a rising power in fish-processing even without the help of other Pacific nations.

Growth in the fish-processing sector in recent years has been driven by the duty-free and quota-free access PNG gets to the European market as a result of its interim Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU.

The industry now employs more than 9,000 people in PNG and expansion plans at the IFC cannery in Lae will add another 1,200 jobs. Further investments could also add another 12,000 jobs.

Mr Pokajam stated that most of the new investment is in Morobe Province.

The Governor of Morobe Province is very supportive and his support is that he wants jobs,' Mr Pokajam said.

Mr Pokojam went on to say that job growth is forecast to continue, and rejected suggestions that tuna fishing over the long term may be unsustainable.

'This is a sustainable industry and the jobs will remain forever. We are looking at direct employment of 30,000,' Mr Pokajam said

The development of Papua New Guinea's fish processing sector has not been without criticism.

In cities such as Madang and Wewak there have been complaints about low pay, poor conditions and pollution by fish processing plants.

However, PNG's National Fisheries Authority have stood by their opinion that there are clear economic benefits in having tuna caught in the Pacific processed by the Pacific, rather than in Asian nations.

Mr Pokajam did however admit that some Asian canneries may be driven out of business if the industry is directed back to the Pacific.

'When you put more processing plants in PNG that fish will then come to PNG and someone is going to suffer. Its going to be the canneries in Asia, mainly Bangkok and Thailand.'

However Mr Pokajam said he wants to work together with other companies and that with time other canneries in the Pacific would benefit from PNG's plan to build up its domestic industry.

the Fish Site Editor

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