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Foreign Origin Tuna Satisfy Needs Of GenSan’s Canneries

Tuna unloading at the fish port complex in General Santos Port remains steady despite the global economic crisis, averaging an estimated 200 metric tons daily, a ranking fishery executive said.

Miguel B. Lamberte, Jr., local manager of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority, which manages the local fish port complex, attributed the stable tuna supply to stocks caught by foreign-owned vessels.

“We have no problems with raw tuna materials, especially for the canneries. The tuna volume dropped here these days is almost the same as last year,” he said in an interview.

Official figures on tuna supplied here by foreign vessels have yet to be finalized, but such volume is way below that coming from local tuna fishers, said Mr. Lamberte.

Better infrastructure

In the second half of 2008, two wharves measuring a total of 430 meters that can accommodate 7,000 gross metric ton vessels were completed as part of the modernization of the 32-hectare fish port complex.

The wharves were designed to accommodate large vessels usually operated by foreign fishing companies.

These wharves have docking capability of nine meters deep. Mr. Lamberte said that despite the global economic crunch, canned tuna products remain in demand "since it is a food commodity that can be availed at a low price by consumers in other countries."

Based on the March 2009 preliminary merchandise export performance released last week by the National Statistics Office (NSO), tuna was one of two commodities — the other being gold — that posted growth among the country’s top 10 export products.

Tuna surged by 7.3% to $29.49 million in March 2009 compared with the same period last year, while gold posted slightly higher growth of 8.6% with an export value of $39.33 million, the NSO reported.

Generally, export earnings in March 2009 dropped by 30.9% to $2.904 billion from $4.200 billion registered in March 2008, the report noted.

Coconut oil (including crude and refined) valued at $32.69 million recorded the biggest year-on-year contraction of 60%.

The other top 10 Philippine products whose performances sank year-on-year were wiring sets, cathodes of refined copper, metal components, electronic products, products manufactured from materials imported on consigned basis, woodcrafts and furniture, as well as apparel and clothing accessories.

Tuna’s positive performance, the NSO report said, was anchored on fresh, frozen, prepared or preserved in airtight containers (canned tuna).

This city, dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” hosts six of the country’s seven tuna canneries.

The major markets for the sector include the United States and European Union.

Mr. Lamberte noted that while Filipino tuna fishing companies have slowed operations, as “they consider this period as still a lean season,” foreign fishing vessels are able to meet the demand for raw materials of Philippine tuna factories.

Earlier, the official said they are enticing more foreign fishing companies to utilize the port due to its shorter turn-around-time from the fishing grounds in the Pacific, compared with Thailand’s facilities.

This, even as Thailand is one of the world’s largest producers of canned tuna products.