Tuna exporters urged to pursue 'cooperative route' for EU market

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					Tuna exporters urged to pursue
‘cooperative route’ for EU

   General Santos City—The Philippine tuna industry’s fresh-frozen sector is working closely with
the national government to convince the European Union (EU) to adopt a more liberal screening
process that will allow the unrestricted entry of local fresh-frozen tuna products into the region.

   Although the U.S. and Japan remain the biggest importers of fresh-frozen tuna products,
posting market shares of 56% and 30%, respectively, the large but still untapped EU market is at
3rd place, with a market share of 6%.

   According to industry data, Philippine fresh-frozen exports to the U.S. grew at an average 12%
per year in the last 3 years, peaking at U.S. $16.3 million in 2004. Annual tuna exports to Japan
have been low at U.S. $7-8 million for the past three years.

   However, exports to the EU showed substantial growth in 2003 and 2004, but they have
dramatically dropped this year due to the problems encountered by local exporters.

    Therefore, a concerted effort is being made to address both an EU-imposed ban as well as the
EU’s lack of fixed quality standards for fresh frozen imports, which have hurt the competitiveness
of the local fresh frozen tuna sector in Europe.

   Industry experts however stressed that instead of bemoaning restrictive EU trade policies, the
local fresh frozen sector, with the support of the national government, should pursue a cohesive
strategy to effectively address these trade barriers.

   “The local fresh-frozen tuna sector, supported by the national government, can cooperate with
EU member-countries in setting fixed standards for products, processes, sanitation, and plant
structural requirements,” explained Ebenezer Bustamante, manager of Citramina Seafood
Corporation, one of the industry’s leading companies.

  He said that producer countries that pursued this “cooperative route” for accessing the EU
market are now reaping the fruits of their labor.

   “European buyers [of fresh frozen tuna] revealed that their respective governments are urging
them to import more tuna products from countries such as Thailand and Vietnam. Therefore, to
remain competitive, the Philippines must follow the lead of these countries,” Bustamante said.

   “In working for the lifting of the ban against local smoked tuna, excellent trade relations
between the Philippines and EU governments must be maintained,” he added.

   Bustamante pointed out that local smoked tuna processors can also draw insights from the
sector’s positive experience with the U.S. market, which is the world’s biggest importer of fresh
frozen tuna products such as smoked tuna loins and steaks.
   “The U.S. [government] resolved the [smoked tuna] issue by focusing on the screening of tuna
products for histamine levels and decomposition. Today, the U.S. continues to import Philippine
frozen smoked tuna as a safe product because it uses fixed quality standards and appropriate
screening methods,” he said.

   Bustamante stressed that the Philippine government should assist the local fresh-frozen tuna
sector in convincing EU governments to adopt similar screening processes.

   Despite declining world tuna catches over the years, the international fresh-frozen market still
remains strong and is expanding. Several processing plants have recently been built in
Indonesia, Vietnam and Africa in order to meet the increasing world demand for fresh tuna
products, Bustamante revealed.

  Bustamante thus urged Philippine fresh-frozen tuna processors to individually work on quality
and cost improvements in order to remain competitive in the world market.

   Twelve of the 15 tuna fresh-frozen processing plants in the country are located in General
Santos City. GenSan, which is part of the tuna-rich SOCSKSARGEN area, supplies around 100
to 200 metric tons per month of fresh sashimi-grade tuna to the U.S., Japan and the EU markets.
The value of the region’s processed tuna exports grew at an average of 12% for the last 5 years,
peaking at U.S. $183 million in 2004. GEM Program

                          Also published in Manila Standard Today, October 24, 2005 & Sunstar Davao, October 15, 2005

Growth with Equity in Mindanao. (October 23, 2005). Tuna exporters urged to pursue
‘cooperative route’ for EU market. The Philippine Star. Retrieved November 15, 2005
from the World Wide Web: http://www.mindanao.org/news/0510/15.htm

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