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Tuna, Philippines’ Strongest Export Earner, In Crisis

Amidst the global economic crisis that saw plunging revenues of Philippine export products these past months, tuna has emerged as the only commodity among the top ten exports showing the strongest annual growth rate.

Tuna products consisting of fresh tuna, frozen tuna, pouched tuna and canned tuna, all racked up total export shipments in February this year valued at 31.27 million US dollars, surging 57 percent, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO).

All other Philippine top 10 export products like electronics, copper cathodes, wiring sets, gold, coconut oil, metal components, garments, furniture, etc, sank ranging from 20, 40 to 60 percent in export revenues during the same month, buckling under the impact of the global slowdown.

“Tuna as a food commodity is highly in demand in the world’s markets specially in the US where most of our country’s tuna products are shipped –it’s a basic necessity even in a global recession,” says Domingo Ang, chief executive officer of Davao Marina Tuna Corporation.

Philippine tuna has been declining in the US market since 2005, but last year’s first quarter tuna exports broke the slowing trend with tuna shipments racking up 9.934 metric tons, rising 22 percent over the same period the previous year.

World prices of processed tuna products had been soaring in foreign markets due to the rising costs of raw tuna catch during the past three years, according to Francisco Buencamino, executive director of the Tuna Canners Association of the Philippines.

However, despite the fewer tuna catch by Filipino fishermen, tuna caught by Taiwanese, Korean and Russian fishermen had been sustaining the tuna production output in both fishing ports of Davao and General Santos in the Philippines south.

Volume of tuna unloaded at the two fishing ports dropped 35 percent during the first half of last year due to high fuel prices which forced several Filipino tuna fishing fleets to cut down their fishing expeditions in the high seas of the South Pacific, according to Philippine Fisheries Development Authority regional manager Miguel Lamberte.

The combined unloading of tuna catch by foreign fishing fleets using the two southern fishing ports has boosted tuna volume at around 20 percent during the first quarter this year.