Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 21 Sep 2017 12am

Headlines:

     

     

     

     

     

    Wednesday, September 20, 2017-4:14:57P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Regional News

Tuna firm eyes FSM, Kiribati plant amid poor year for skipjack catches

MANILA (Undercurrent News/Pacnews) — Filipino tuna firm Frabelle is still eyeing the potential of processors in the Federated States of Micronesia and Kiribati, as 2017 sees tough times for its expanded processing capacities on the Pacific islands.

Frabelle operates as part of a joint venture — Majestic Seafood — in Papua New Guinea, which is co-owned Thai Union Group and Century Canning Corporation.

Thus far Frabelle has invested a total of $44 million in the plant, which has been canning skipjack and yellowfin tuna for the European Union market since 2013. However, in the second half of 2016 and first of 2017, the balance of landings has been off, Frabelle president Francisco Tiu Laurel told Undercurrent News.

“We invested another $9 million to put up a loin line to process the yellowfin tuna,” he said. “Landings in PNG have been 50 percent yellowfin, and we need a place to store them and process them, as there are very limited buyers for canned yellowfin.”

New floating coldstorage of 3,500 metric tons is in place near the plant, he said, and the loin line is operational; “but we need to expand it since it is not enough [capacity] to be viable.”

Frabelle has also invested in another loining line and contact freezers for its own plant on PNG, bringing capacity to 30 tons per day.

“For Majestic and Frabelle the main problem this year is fish —catching around the Pacific has been bad this year, and not much skipjack,” said Tiu Laurel. “It’s mostly been yellowfin in the first half of this year, so we have problems serving our skipjack contracts due to a lack of fish in general.”

“We want to process more, but lack the raw material,” he said. The plant has been aiming to reach a capacity of 120 tons per day, which it has in 2017, but only occasionally thanks to inconsistent skipjack supplies.

Meanwhile, Frabelle has been looking for several years at expansion plans on other Pacific islands, with the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and FSM all mooted as possible destinations in the past.