DA asks airlines to lower rates for ME-bound tuna exports

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/05 September) — The Department of Agriculture has opened negotiations with Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (PAL) for the setting of special or preferential airfreight rates for the country’s tuna exports to the Middle East.

Gil Herico, agriculture attache of the Philippine embassy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is specifically seeking for reduced or lower airfreight rates than the current US$ 2.60 to US$ 3.60 per kilo being charged by foreign airlines to tuna shipments, which mainly come from this city.

Sec. Acala has initially reached out to chief executive officers and presidents Ramon Ang of PAL and Lance Gokongwei of Cebu Pacific regarding the move, he said.

He said his office is also assisting the talks with the two airlines, which maintain regular flights to Dubai and other key destinations in the Middle East.

“We’re trying to work out how (our tuna exporters) could get concessionary rates from Cebu Pacific and PAL to make our tuna exports, especially the fresh, chilled tuna, more competitive in the Middle East markets,” Herico said in an open forum at the ongoing 16th National Tuna Congress here.

Herico said the Emirates Airlines currently charge tuna shipments from Manila to Dubai at US$ 3.60 per kilo.

Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways impose airfreight rates of US$ 3.20 and US$ 2.60 per kilo for the same route, he said.

Herico said PAL and Cebu Pacific currently utilize Airbus A330 aircrafts for their Middle East flights that carry extra loads of 12 tonnes.

“We can easily fill up these flights with fresh, chilled tuna shipments because the current demand for it in the Middle East is quite big,” he said.

Citing their estimates, Herico said fresh, chilled tuna exports from the country currently accounts for 95 percent of the supplies in the markets.

He said the main markets for the fresh, chilled tuna are four to eight-star hotel chains and major specialty restaurants.

Among its popular patrons is Nobu, the world-renowned Japanese restaurant created by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa located at Dubai’s most expensive hotel Atlantis The Palm, he said.

Herico said most hotels and restaurants in the Middle East patronize the country’s fresh tuna, specifically those coming from this city, as most general managers and chefs there had worked in international hotel chains in Davao, Cebu and Manila.

He said Sec. Alcala, in a previous visit to Dubai, met a Swiss chef who confided that he had recommended the fresh, chilled tuna from this city to other chefs during a meeting of their association in the Middle East.

“You should be proud of your tuna. About 95 percent of the most expensive hotels all over the Middle East are actually patronizing the pride of GenSan — the fresh, chilled tuna,” he added. (MindaNews)