The country had been relying so much on logging for years to support its revenue with more than 60 percent of income coming from logging.
But in a couple of years, the revenue derived from the sector will plunge making it harder for the country to hang on to its economic standing.
In the first quarter of this year, the Central Bank said logging remains the highest employee.
This got to show how the employment sector will also be affected.
However, the country’s fisheries sector seems to hold the hope for the country’s future economic development.
This week a Philippine-based fishing company called Frebelle Fishing Corporation (FFC) has confirmed its intention to set up a tuna loining factory in the country.
And they will soon set up their office in Honiara.
A proposal of their investment has been submitted to the Government in early this month.
Frabelle, based in Navatas City, Manila, has a fleet of tuna Purse Seine vessels and support vessels operating in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Islands Nations.
Both canneries are operating at a capacity and produces quality canned tuna which are sold worldwide, the company said.
Frabelle has been a recognised company in the world tuna fishing and processing industries and their products are also known regional and globally.
This is because they have customers, contacts, shipping and distribution and collection network that are already established and products are readily accepted in the international markets.
Apart from the tuna products, they also deal with seafood products targeting the European and Asian markets.
With its 25 years of experience in the Pacific region, Frebelle said it is ready to move in to build and manage the facility and to train local counterparts.
It said Solomon Islands is an attractive area to establish another integrated tuna fishing, loining and canning facilities.
The operations will ensure that local labours are being used which can help in the employment sector.
“Our methods are simple, labour intensive, environmental friendly and our company policies are geared towards responsible and sustainable fishing.
“Solomon Islands offer a large pool of willing workers, abundant renewable fish resources and a progressive attitude toward foreign investment.
“Utilising the fishing methodology pioneered by the Filipinos will guarantee a steady supply of fish to the cannery, as well as steady work for the people, and export revenue for the country,” the proposal stated.
The company will use Purse Seine fishing vessels and pole and line as fishing methods and will allow more Solomon Islanders to work as crews.
They estimated approximately 30% of the vessel crews can soon be Solomon Islanders and even more later,” the company said.
The company is looking at establishing its factory in two places namely Guadalcanal and Western provinces.
This is because of the closeness to the fishing grounds, Solomon Islands becoming a major tuna trans-shipment point, adequate labour supply and existing infrastructure and being close to Lae, PNG where they have a tuna loining-canning factory and can making facilities.
Frabelle adheres to such organisations like Earth Island Institute Dolphin Safe program and Friends of the Sea (FOS).
So when they operate in the country they will have to live by the rules of these two organisations.
The company also hopes to introduce a new local brand in the Pacific market from its Solomon Islands plant.
The proposed project will be able to provide livelihood opportunities for upwards of 1500 people, as the operation achieve maximum two shifts per day capacity.
At the onset of the project about 700 will be employed initially at the cannery.
Production is expected to start at 50 tonnes per day and increase to 100.
This facility that we will be constructed in Solomon Islands will be complementing the present facility in Lae, PNG, thus, promoting Pacific islands trade.
The project will require considerable quantities or raw material which they plan to source from local suppliers provided they do not compete against local demand.
For fish supply the company will work with local fishermen and provide support facilities to enhance their fishing capability.
“We are committed to help develop the local fishing industry including and specially the pole and line in the Islands.”
The proposed project will be composed of the following component;
- Purse Seining operations
- Tuna loining/canning
- development of other tuna product lines
- Ice plant
- Wharf activities
- Net repair yards
- Ship yard and engineering services
- Packaging plant
- Program to assist development of local fishermen
- Market for fish caught by pole and line fishing
- Bio-mass fueled boilers and power generators which will generate substantial employment;
- Loining canning operations up to 20 small to medium size purse seine vessels plus support it will generate opportunities for local fishermen as we will become the market for their catch.
- It will generate sign off business for fishing supplies, repair services, air freight, surface freight, financial services, retail outlets, bio-mass material supply such as coconut shells.
- The company intend to develop other tuna products lines and promote brands that will be identified with the Solomon Islands.
The company intends to train net makers/menders and open up a proposed net yard to other purse seine vessels operating the area as added economic activity in the islands.
A ship yard with dry docking and engineering services will also be established to serve both their vessels and other vessels.
The company promised to train Solomon Islanders to serve both in its ship yards in Manila and in General Santos City to man their facility.
The wharf and cold storage facilities will also be open to other fishing vessels.
These facilities plus net repair and engineering services will encourage more vessels fishing in the Pacific to tranship their catch in Solomon Islands.
Fishing boats that will be used for the project will either be flagged or domestically based in Solomon Islands providing more revenue.
Purse Seine is the most common fishing method used to catch tuna in large quantities for the loining and canning industry.
But most of the purse seine vessels operating in Solomons waters are foreign flag, by flagging or basing the vessels in Solomon Islands the catch will improve revenue for the government.
Pole and Line fishing has been practised in the Solomon Islands for so many years now.
They will support this and encourage more participation in the fishery by becoming an additional market for their catch.
It is also the company's intention to enhance/improve catching capability of this fishery by providing services and additional facilities.
The wharf facility is needed to handle the unloading of fish and for the re-supply of vessels.
The ice-plant will produce the needed quantity of ice for the vessels, loining/canning facility for the local fishermen.
The cold fish processing facility is to be equipped with a suitably sized cold storage with capacity that may be utilised by other fishing companies in the Solomon Islands.
A 15 hectare area along the sea shores of Tenaru, Guadalcanal, is now being negotiated for the cannery and support facilities including ice plant and cold storage.
Other facilities will be built in the western province.
Housing facility will also be built within the 15 hectare compound to accommodate the employees.
The company plans to work with the national environmental agency to ensure that the plant conform to the environmental laws and regulation of the country.
The entire production is intended for a number of markets.
For tuna loins it will target, Lae city, Thailand, General Santos in Philippines, Spain, France, USA, Italy and Japan.
The canned tuna will target local/domestic market, Pacific, European Union, United States and Australian market.
The project will be financed by the Frabelle Fishing Corporation of the Philippines and Frabelle (PNG) Limited.
The multi-million dollar project is poised to bring huge economic benefits to the country.
However, the issue now is whether Solomon Islands will put an end to its live dolphin trade.
Earth Island Institute associate director Mark Berman said once the trade is over, they will certify the tuna/loining investment which will bring huge benefits to this country.
By MOFFAT MAMU
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