FIJI FISH CANNERY WARNS OF LAYOFFS

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Says removal of import duty will hurt

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, May 19, 2008) – The Pacific Fishing Company (PAFCO) Ltd today warned that the recent removal of duty from imported canned fish stuff would cut about 500 jobs at their fish canning factory in Levuka.

PAFCO chief operating officer, Chandra Prakash, said he was hoping to meet the Interim Prime Minister to raise concerns about this recent removal of duty from imported canned food stuff announced two weeks ago, which is expected to negatively impact on the company’s local canned foods.

Prakash said the discussions would be centered on the loss of business the company faces.

He said PAFCO would now be a victim to cheap imports.

"Because imported products will be sold cheaper our local products will remain stagnant," he added.

He said that even to operate PAFCO, which is out of Suva, costs around $5 million a year, as most of the raw materials like cartons, cans, labels and even raw fish that are imported arrives in Suva and then shipped to Levuka and the finished products are then shipped back to Suva.

"Although the company rakes in about around $15m worth of sales in the local market, this will diminish due to the drop in prices on the imported products," he added.

"Customers will buy the cheaper goods and with the imported canned stuff now zero rated, our local canned foods will remain stagnant on the supermarket shelves," he said.

At the moment, he said that the local tuna are selling at 79 cents each while the imported ones from Thailand, Indonesia and China are selling at 89 cents each.

"With the drop in duty, their prices will drop even further," he added.

Prakash said the drop in sales will now threaten about 500 jobs from the 1000 people employed from the entire Lomaiviti Group who are solely dependent on PAFCO for their livelihoods.

He said since PAFCO is the mainstay of the Levuka economy, once it is shut down, the rest of the business houses will also disappear.

"Since PAFCO is a state-owned company and has been satisfactorily generating profits, over the years, the last thing you want is to hurt your own Government Commercial Company.

With a view to remaining viable as possible, Prakash said he wished to meet with the Interim Prime Minister to raise this concern and discuss ways of resolving this situation.

He said the loss of any jobs was worrying particularly for families given the rise in food costs and the high unemployment rate in the country.

Prakash was hoping that the Interim Government would consider subsidising the local food manufacturers.

He said PAFCO needed to remain viable given its rural significance.

Fijilive

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