NFD & Soltuna wary of what future holds with SI’s graduation from LDC
BY MIKE PUIA
THE country’s premier fishing company, National Fisheries Developments (NFD), is worried about the impact the country’s graduation out of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) list is having on its operation.
NFD operates a fleet of purse seine and pole-and-line vessels from the port of Noro in the Western province.
NFD and Soltuna form one of the most integrated tuna fishing and processing operations in the South Pacific. They are the producers of canned Soltuna products.
Recently, the United Nations announced that this country is one of the four countries that will graduate out from the LDCs list.
The country’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative in Geneva (Switzerland), Barrett Salato, was quick to point out that this will have serious implications on local companies that are also exporting their products to the European Union (EU) market.
Salato said the graduation is a positive indication that the country is improving but it would have impacts on local companies’ ability to sell its products in the EU market.
This is because this country will not enjoy the privileges of special trade rules, development programmes and assistance accorded to LDCs.
According to Salato, local companies like Soltuna and Guadalcanal Plain Plantation Oil Limited (GIPPOL) stand the risk of going out of business because they will have to undergo a rigorous process of meeting strict criteria before their products can enter the EU market.
Currently, these companies are exporting their products easily into the EU market on a duty-free-quota-free basis under the Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative since they are accorded zero preferential tariffs and no restriction on import quantity under the EBA.
According to Salato, if the country graduated out of the LDC list the preferential arrangement will “go out the window”.
“Thailand, which is the largest tuna exporter to EU pays 24 percent tariff with strict import quota system to enter EU tuna market, Soltuna hardly compete with them. If Soltuna pays 24 percent tariff, I don’t think Soltuna will survive the market,” Salato explained.
He said if Soltuna or GIPPOL is unable to compete then jobs of hundreds of locals, mostly women, are on the line.
NFD’s General Manager, Frank Wickham, in his remarks during the opening of this year’s world tuna day celebration in Noro last Friday expressed concern about this.
Wickham admitted the country’s graduation out from the LDC list will have serious implications on their export to the EU market.
“We will continue to work closely with the national government in order to get maximum benefit from that (EU) market,” Wickham said.
He said tuna fishing, storage and export will face challenges therefore partnership, strategy and intervention must be smart to face any challenge.
Wickham said everyone involved in the fishing industry must be smart in compliance and in keeping to standard.