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PHL's deal with Russian tuna producers to help local industry, says Nograles

The three memoranda of understanding (MOU) inked between Philippine tuna producers and their Russian counterparts will open greater business opportunities for the country's $400-million tuna industry, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Saturday.

The three deals were signed during a business forum as part of President Rodrigo Duterte's five-day trip to Russia.

In a statement, Nograles said the MOU between Century Pacific Food and Russian partners Magnit Food Retail Chain and LLC Dalpromryba. that Duterte witnessed together with members of the Cabinet, was part of government efforts to deliver on its commitment to Philippine tuna producers to find new markets like Russia.

“The trip of the President was very productive, and this agreement is one of many that will benefit Philippine business interests, especially those that are based in Mindanao,” said the Palace official.

Nograles pointed out that the Philippine fisheries industry showed promise in 2019, with fisheries output up by 1.51 percent in the first six months of 2019.

Of the seven major species caught by Filipino fishermen, four major species exhibited production growth: round scad, tiger prawn, tilapia, and yellowfin tuna––with yellowfin tuna posting the biggest growth, at 33.4 percent.

“As a son of Mindanao, I consider the MOUs a big win not just for tuna producers, but for Mindanao, as the region is the source of 90 percent of tuna produced by our country. This is an industry that creates jobs and annual direct revenues of 400 million US dollars. In General Santos City alone, the industry directly employs 25,000 workers,” Nograles said.

The Palace official noted that even before the country’s official delegation left for Russia, one of the priorities of the government was to explore business opportunities for the country’s growing tuna industry.

He revealed that in the 21st National Tuna Congress in September, members of the Soccksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII) requested assistance in finding export partners for their products, specifically Russia.

“That was on top of the SFFAII’s agenda, which is why their request was immediately relayed to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Mon Lopez, who made sure that this would be included among the trade initiatives to be pitched by the Philippines,” Nograles said.

He said the government expected the whole Philippine tuna industry, not just Century Pacific Food, to benefit from the trade agreements, as “the ultimate objective is to open the door, to enter a new and promising market.”

“Today the Philippines is the top tuna-exporting country to Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Collectively we export 171,452 metric tons of tuna to these three markets each year, the equivalent of 492 million US dollars,” he said.

“Russia has the 6th largest economy in the world and a population of 146 million people, so the potential is there. The Philippine tuna industry will profit immensely if we are able to maximize our entry into the Russian market, and one of the immediate beneficiaries will be Mindanao," he added. — John Ted Cordero/DVM, GMA News