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Processors Investing In PNG Tuna Facilities – A Game Changer For Entire Pacific

The investment in a Papua New Guinea cannery might at first glance seem to have nothing to do with Marshall Islands.

A closer look at the move by Thai Union Group, however, suggests the start of a major change in fisheries investments in the Pacific, says PNA Commercial Manager Maurice Brownjohn.

Thai Union is the world’s largest tuna processor and it has joined with two other tuna processing companies to invest in a new cannery in PNG.

“This investment has totally changed the situation,” said Brownjohn. “They are not just investing (in shore facilities) to get cheap fishing licenses or domestic fishing preferences.”

He pointed out that the cost to set up a cannery is less expensive than a new purse seiner, which costs in the neighborhood of USD 20 million.

Thai Union’s move is “very positive,” said Brownjohn. “It is restructuring the industry so that instead of fish going offshore for processing, they will stay in-country for processing.”

Brownjohn pointed out that the PNA region — Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, FSM, Palau, Nauru, Solomons and PNG — is the only fishing area globally that exports more than it processes. Data he provided shows that PNA waters will provide 750,000 metric tons of fish to Thailand, 200,000 metric tons each to the Philippines and Latin America, and 125,000 metric tons to American Samoa for processing next year. Meanwhile, processing in plants located in PNA nations — PNG, Solomons and RMI — will account for only 150,000 metric tons next year, according to the PNA.

Brownjohn sees this beginning to change with the Thai Union investment in PNG. “The investment by tuna processors, not fishing companies, is totally changing the situation,” he said, adding it will greatly increase the volume of tuna that is processed in PNA countries, creating jobs, sales and tax revenue.