MANILA -- Three Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) signed between Philippine tuna producers and their Russian counterparts at a business forum attended by President Rodrigo Duterte during his five-day trip to Russia should pave the way for greater business opportunities for the country’s USD400-million tuna industry.
This according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who on Sunday said the MOU between Century Pacific Food and Russian partners Magnit Food Retail Chain and LLC Dalpromryba is part of government efforts to deliver on its commitment to Philippine tuna producers to find new markets like Russia.
The President together with members of the Cabinet witnessed the signing.
“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,” Nograles said.
Nograles pointed out that the Philippine fisheries industry has shown 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: roundscad, 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 USD400 million. In General Santos City alone, the industry directly employs 25,000 workers,” stressed the former congressman from Davao.
According to Nograles, 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.
Nograles 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 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 explained.
Nograles said the government expects 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 USD492 million,” Nograles 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.”