"Last year, we had 85 tuna value-added processors, up 37% from 62 the previous year. Majority of them are already accredited by the [local] Department of Trade and Industry," Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. said.
Of the 85 tuna value-added processors, 19 were exporters who sold $35 million (P1.4 billion at P40 to a dollar) of various products to markets in the United States, Japan, Hongkong and other countries, Acharon said.
He added that domestic sales last year reached P183.3 million for products like tocino, chorizo, embotido, patties, spring roll and many others.
In all, there are now 19 variants of tuna value-added products sold in domestic and foreign markets, he said.
Tuna value-added products used to lag behind the canned tuna products, the major sector in the local tuna industry. Six of the nation's eight tuna canneries are based in this city dubbed the "Tuna Capital of the Philippines."
The tuna industry and its allied industries have employed at least 61,000 individuals within the locality, Acharon noted.
Five of the producers in the tuna value-added business have applied for trademark at the Intellectual Property Rights Office of the Department of Trade and Industry, he said.
Based on DTI records here, the tuna-value added industry generated at least $27.6 million in export sales and P45.8 million domestic sales in 2006.
Nelly Nita Dillera, Department of Trade and Industry-Region XII business development division chief, said tuna value-added products have become a multi-million-peso industry, as the international market prefers to patronize these health products.
"The fresh [and canned] tuna products that boosted the economy of General Santos have metamorphosed into a vibrant tuna value-added business," she said.
Tuna value-added products have been greatly enhanced by the involvement of major tuna industry players such as the large, small and medium purse seiners, handline fishing operators, tuna canneries and fresh and frozen tuna processors, she said.
She also attributed the growth of tuna add-on products to the presence of different facilities found in the locality essential for the industry's development.
She cited the Gensan Fish Port Complex, the most modern and second largest in the country, which according to her, contributed in repositioning the city as a major player in the world fishing industry.
Aside from fresh and canned tuna products, tuna value-added products have been listed as this city's main contribution to the "One-Town, One-Product" program pushed by the national government.
Dillera said prospects for the tuna value-added product industry are bright.
"The industry has abundant raw materials, there is availability of skills and technology, existing local market and expanding foreign market," she said. (MindaNews)