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By Marc Neil-Jones

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Dec. 10) – The Vanuatu Parliament has been told that China has agreed to fund a Vt500 million [US$4.5 million] fish processing facility at Blacksands near Port Vila.

Fisheries Minister Barak Sope revealed that the agreement was signed at the end of October in Beijing between the government and China National Fisheries Corporation.

The government had been working on the project since 2000 when Member of Parliament Stephen Kalsakau was minister for Fisheries and the work continued under Sato Kilman and then Sope managed to finalise all the arrangements.

The agreement stipulates that the government must provide the land and Sope said, "The government owned VLD purchased 37 hectares of land at Blacksands/Salili worth over Vt120 million [US$1 million] on a valid, registered lease for Vt25 million [US$227,000] with substantial waterfront, power and water access."

Sope advised that a Chinese technical team had come to Vanuatu and signed a contract after seeing the land to design and supervise the building of the plant."

"Work will start in early 2006" he told parliament.

The processing facility will cover an area of 3000 square meters with large freezers and cool rooms that can handle over 3000 tons of fish with the opportunity to increase that to 10,000 tons in one year.

The factory will be built to a standard to handle processing for the high quality sashimi, raw fish market.

Sope said the plant would also be able to process other products for export such as beef.

The new joint venture project will be called Sino-Van Fisheries Ltd and will be 51% owned by China National Fisheries and 49% owned by the Vanuatu government through VLD.

China will in addition to building and financing the processing facility, will supply 20 large fishing vessels as part of the joint venture plus make arrangements for an additional 20 fishing boats to work in the venture.

This means a total of 40 fishing boats will be working for the joint venture in and around Vanuatu's exclusive economic zone and in international waters.

Sope said, "This means that any fish caught by foreign fishing boats in our waters will now be taken to Port Vila for processing and export. Currently any fish caught in our waters are taken to Fiji or Samoa for processing and export. We only get small revenue from fishing licenses and very little from our own resources."

The next stage of the venture will be the construction of shipping slipways to repair ships and a refueling depotwith large tanks for fishing boats. When it is finished the facility will have everything needed to carry and process the fish and supply ships with food, water and fuel.

Sope says that when Palekula fishing base in Santo closed down, local boats had nowhere to get their boats repaired and he said, "with this new facility local ship owners will be able to use the facilities to repair their boats.

"The new facility will create work for 200 people and have a big impact on the economy by generating much needed foreign currency. It will also provide a big opportunity for young people who have received training at the Maritime College to find work on the ships and fishing boats. At the same time the government will increase the asset base of VLD to over200 million"

Sope confirmed that VLD had a chequered history through poor management but this new joint venture will change everything.

"We have a multi million dollar asset," he said.

Sope has also moved quickly to implement new agriculture-based projects which will be announced soon including a new Agricultural Bank which will give loans in rural areas for projects that will stimulate agricultural economic growth plus a new Palm Oil project and a rice growing project, all of which they are working closely with the Chinese government on and will start in 2006.

December 12, 2005

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