Marfenio Tan, president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc., said passing the inspection would boost export revenues in the vast European market. “We are confident of getting the nod of the European inspectors when they visit us. We have upgraded our facilities and operations to meet rigid world standards,” he said.
He added that the local tuna industry, to be globally competitive, have been exposed to a series of fish enhancement training programs on such topics as the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, Good Manufacturing Practices, and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure.
Neil Cachuela, head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) that is helping the local tuna industry, said 67 trainings have been conducted since 2003.
“The trainings have benefited 3,000 participants from 86 companies. Participants in the trainings include those most responsible for assuring that products meet rigid EU standards, such as quality officers from tuna processing plants, crew members of refrigerated vessels or ships, and labor contractors,” he said.
Industry records show that the European Union accounts for 40 percent of the country's tuna exports.
In 2004, local producers exported 64,000 tons of fresh and canned tuna products to European markets with a value of at least $110 million.
The Philippines produces 400,000 metric tons of tuna annually with a value of P18 billion. About 85 percent of which is being exported to various regions, including Japan, United States and Europe, data from the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources show.
Among the efforts to improve quality of tuna products here was the creation of the Fish Quality Enhancement Multi-Sectoral Task Force by the local government chaired by Mayor Pedro Acharon.
“The task force implements an action plan to enable tuna canneries and processors, including the General Santos Fish Port Complex, to comply with the EU standards,” the mayor said.
One of the key features of the action plan is the commitment and voluntary efforts of the tuna processors to implement the required standards. These include imposing strict sanitary procedures among employees, and refurbishing equipment and facilities.
Significant improvements have also been made to infrastructures. Tan cited the new seawater well and pumping system to facilitate cleansing of fish and the purchase of more efficient offloading equipment such as cranes and forklifts.