Largest Regional Fish Processing Plant Opens In PNG

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Lae facility may create 7,000 jobs for workers

By Jemima Garrett

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, June 10, 2013) – Papua New Guinea has opened the region's biggest fish processing plant in the industrial city of Lae.

This marks the first investment by Thai Union, the world's biggest fish processor.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill says the opening of the Majestic Seafoods plant could create close to 7,000 jobs.

Mr. O'Neill says his government wants to see all fish processed on shore to create jobs and economic benefits for Papua New Guineans.

National Fisheries Authority managing director, Sylvester Pokajam, says PNG's tuna industry has the potential to become a big player on the global stage.

"We can be number one in the world," Mr. Pokajam said. "Thailand is the biggest in the world today but we have the fish."

Better access

Martin Dihm, European Ambassador to PNG, says PNG's other big advantage in its bid to bring tuna processing onshore is the fact it has better access to Europe than Asian countries, through its Economic Partnership Agreement.

"That allows full free duty free access of all Papua New Guinean goods to the European market," Mr. Dihm said. "It is the most lucrative market in the world with 500 million consumers.

"The fact that Thai investment comes here I think, in itself, is a very good sign because it means it is better to produce here, to create the jobs here than in Bangkok."

Maintaining standards

Mr. Dihm says the Majestic Seafoods plant will need to maintain environmental and other standards.

"What we have to consider, of course, is we look... very closely at stock conservation issues and at any labor issues and social issues," he said. "We have a regular committee... that is foreseen by the trade agreement where we discuss all these issues together."

Big investment

Prime Minister O'Neill also announced at the opening that Lae will get a new international terminal at its airport on top of new port and road infrastructure.

Lae Chamber of Commerce President Alan McLay says such a big investment is making a difference.

"It is just one huge factory," he said. "They talk about initially putting on 4,000 workers and if things go well they say they have facilities for 7,000 workers. So that is just a huge amount."

Abundant workforce

Mr. Pokajam says companies won't have trouble finding workers.

"That is why most investment is going into Lae because that is where the workforce is in abundance," he said. "The beauty of it is that most of the workforce is female, about 90% are female."

However, Mr. Pokajam thinks the job targets will not be easy to achieve.

"Last year or the year before that I said 5 years but it is going to be more than 5 years," he said. "I would say 10 years."

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