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By Eric Kone

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 7, 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Sepik province is set to become a major tuna processing center by next year following the groundbreaking ceremony to built a K 50 million (US$ 20.75 million) tuna canning factory.

Fisheries Minister Ron Ganarafo officiated at the ceremony at Yawasoro, west of Wewak, before more than 300 people including schoolchildren, provincial government officials and investors from the United States of America and Taiwan.

The ceremony marked the start of the construction phase, which is expected to be completed in 10 months after the signing of documents this week by the National Government giving the project the go-ahead.

The state-of-the-art tuna processing facility will use catches by Taiwan fishing vessels operating in Papua New Guinea waters.

Minister Ganarafo said the ceremony also marked the completion of years of negotiations between the investors and government officials, particularly leaders from East Sepik province.

"We need more investors because we have plenty of natural resources. In fact, we have 300,000 tons of tuna here yet to be harvested, and we need the fish to be processed here," Mr. Ganarafo said.

He welcomed the investors from United States and Taiwan and thanked them for having confidence in PNG.

He also called on other investors to come to Papua New Guinea to set up similar or other major projects.

East Sepik Governor Arthur Somare emphasized the importance of having an open dialogue between all the parties and gave assurances that the people of East Sepik and his government were committed to see this project through to fruition.

Mr. Somare said Wewak town in the coming months will be busy with major projects such as the tuna factory, the storm water drainage project and the expansion of the wharf facility.

He said he was confident that the PNG Harbors Board and the National Government would assist with the expansion of the Wewak Port, which he said would be vital when the tuna factory goes into full swing.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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