FIJI’S PACIFIC FISHING COMPANY SECURES MARKET IN U.S.

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 22, 1999 – PACNEWS)---The Pacific Fishing Company (PAFCO) has negotiated a five year agreement to supply tuna to Bumble Bee Seafood, Inc., a major American firm.

PAFCO General Manager Mitieli Baleivanualala said it was an exciting breakthrough for the company.

"We have made an important advance in the world’s largest single tuna market. This will help us to secure jobs for our workers and concentrate on long-term development."

An immediate priority for PAFCO is to invest $FJD 7 million (US$ 3.64 million) for the expansion and improvement of its factory at Levuka, Ovalau, an island off the coast of the main island of Viti Levu.

The upgrade will lift factory standards to comply fully with international production and hygiene requirements, particularly those of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Union (EU).

PAFCO, majority-owned by the Fiji Government, operates Ovalau’s main industry -- canning and processing high quality tuna for international customers. It provides employment for up to 600 local people.

Baleivanualala signed the Bumble Bee agreement at the U.S. firm's head office in San Diego, California.

Douglas Hines, Bumble Bee’s Vice President - Business Development, was the other signatory. Also present was PAFCO’s Chairman, Kalivati Bakani.

Negotiation of the five-year contract followed a 12-month trial agreement with Bumble Bee.

PAFCO receives a processing fee for supplying the American company with a minimum of 15,000 tons of tuna annually, to be packed as loins for canning in California. Price details are confidential, in line with the terms of the agreement.

"Although we are not permitted to divulge the price as a matter of commercial confidentiality, I can say that we have negotiated a very fair deal that provides a win-win situation for all parties concerned," Baleivanualala said.

"More importantly, this deal has provided a platform for PAFCO to gradually move away from its reliance on preferential trade arrangements into free trade."

Sales to Bumble Bee will account for most of PAFCO’s business.

PAFCO tuna also is exported to Europe.

"EU market arrangements will remain important to our business in the next 10 to 15 years. They will provide the grace period for PAFCO to fully move into the global free trade environment." Baleivanualala said.

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