Philippine tuna exporters eye canning facilities in India
South Asian country has potential to produce 230,000 metric tonnes a year
1 Jun 2021 | The Asset

Frabelle Fishing Corp. (FFC), one of the largest tuna fishing and canning operators in the Philippines, has expressed interest in exploring business opportunities in India, including buying raw produce and putting up canning facilities in the South Asian country.

“India has a potential to produce 230,000 metric tonnes of tuna annually, of which 40% are skipjack and the rest are big eye and yellowfin. That’s something worth looking into by way of putting up the facility or at least buy more materials to feed existing Filipino-owned factories around western and central Pacific,” FFC president Francisco Tiu Laurel said at the first virtual India-Philippines Marine Fisheries & Aquatic Business Conference (IPM-ABC) held recently.

Philippine tuna companies, aside from owning fishing fleets, operate canning facilities overseas such as in Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, and Indonesia.  About 86% of the fish are canned in pouch, with the rest in tuna loins.

 “In the 1960s, boats were a lot smaller than they are now.  Now we compete with the world’s best with purse seine large fishing vessels,” Laurel said at the IPM-ABC co-organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food (PCAFI).

Fleet expansion

FFC’s operations cover deep-sea fishing, aquaculture, canning, food manufacturing, processing, food importation and trading, cold storage, shipyard operations, wharf development, real estate development, and power generation.

 “We are also willing to expand our tuna fleet where we are welcome to fish. That’s something quite encouraging to look at in India,” Laurel added.

Frabelle runs a fleet of over 100 vessels and employs around 5,000 people.  Its seafood products are marketed globally, including in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, and the United States.

Speaking at the same conference, Indian fishery authorities and industry representatives welcomed moves to expand trade cooperation between the two countries in the fishery sector.

“Tuna offers great investment opportunities in India.  We recognize the Philippines as a world leader in tuna processing. You come to India and directly invest,” said Cherian Cherian Kurian, managing director of India’s HIC-ABF Special Foods, a maker of food products.

“The Indian government has announced a policy to exploit these [fishery] resources.  Today we do canning in India, but the volume is so low.”

Employment opportunities

PCAFI president Danilo Fausto noted that the Philippine fishery sector provides employment to over 1.6 million people, 85% of whom are from municipal fisheries, 14% from the aquaculture sector, and 1% from commercial fisheries.

“The fishing industry contributes around 2% of the country’s gross domestic product and 15% of its total agriculture output,” Fausto added.

Tuna is the Philippines’ biggest seafood export, amounting to US$300 million to US$400 million yearly.

The country exports 90% of its tuna production, mainly to the European Union, where it enjoys preferential duty, and also to the United States, the Middle East, Japan and Australia.