Tuna cannery still in the pipeline in Vanuatu

The outgoing Director General (DG) of Vanuatu’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB), Moses Amos, has confirmed that the management of Sino-Van plans to set up a small processing plant this year.

It is public knowledge the Vanuatu Government has been talking about establishing a processing facility to produce canned tuna for years.

Sino-Van is a tuna processing joint venture between the Vanuatu Government and China National Fisheries Corporation (CNFC). The Vanuatu Government owns 49% shares with the rest owned by CNFC.

Outgoing DG Amos said the plan is to set up small focussing on domestic demand and later expand once a market is secured.

In 2020, a request was made to the Ministerial Budget Committee (MBC) for the Government to allocate VT100 million(US$841,000) from the budget for a tuna cannery. Amos said at that time that the funds would be the government’s contribution to support CNFC in establishing the tuna cannery.

He said in an interview this week: “Unfortunately, we could not utilised the assistance given by the government last year since we were not in the position to do that, everything was slowly picking up after COVID-19.”

Amos said the facility will be established on a land owned by Sino-Van at Salili area, but there are squatters on the land. He said the Sino-Van Board will find a solution to resolve this matter before establishing the facility.

Sino-Van has been exporting fresh and frozen tuna since 2019. The idea to have a cannery is to be able to have Vanuatu-caught tuna processed locally and reduce dependence on imported canned tuna.

Currently, the tuna exports are being affected by irregular Air Vanuatu flights to market destinations. “We have lost our markets. Before COVID-19, we were exporting to countries like USA, China and Australia,” the outgoing DG said.

“There are still no regular flights to markets and also, the cost of freight on our national airline is costly. We are exporting only in containers.”

Another challenge being faced by Sino-Van is that the company does not have fishing boats, the boats being used are for CNFC.

“To fully utilise the capacity of the company, we must have our own boat. We have approached the Chinese Government and they agreed to help build 30 boats, eight to be given early to replace those from CNFC,” said Amos. Sino-Van should receive the fishing boats end of this year or early next year, he added.