Cannery closure spells disaster for Samoa

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In this photo taken Nov. 28, 2014, construction on a new unloading dock is underway at Tri Marine International's Samoa Tuna Processors Inc., plant under construction in the U.S. territory of American Samoa.

In this photo taken Nov. 28, 2014, construction on a new unloading dock is underway at Tri Marine International's Samoa Tuna Processors Inc., plant under construction in the U.S. territory of American Samoa. (Photo: Fili Sagapolutele)

Hundreds of cannery workers from Samoa working at the Samoa Tuna Processors (S.T.P) will soon be heading home jobless.

In a week where Yazaki Samoa Eds has also announced its closure, this spells disaster for Samoa in terms of employment opportunities.

Yesterday, it was announced that S.T.P’s canning operations are shutting down indefinitely on 11 December 2016 due to adverse business conditions.

The partial shutdown will put hundreds of people out of work, and send ripple effects throughout the community, especially in Samoa where the majority of production employees are from.

The US$70 million cannery was officially opened in January of last year, but only started production a few months later because of delayed shipping due to industrial action in the U.S.

The C.E.O of the Tri Marine Group, Renato Curto, said this is an incredibly difficult decision and one made with a great deal of reluctance.

The statement said the challenging economics of canning tuna in American Samoa combined with external factors facing S.T.P make Tri Marine's private-label focused business model or operating the canning plant economically unsustainable in today's market. Tri Marine is evaluating alternatives for the facility including outright sale, preferably to a strategic buyer that would minimise job losses.

Before the production plant was launched, S.T.P was exporting fresh frozen fish to markets in the U.S. and Japan.

In January of this year Tri Marine asked for a moratorium on lease payments for two years and a reduction in utility and water rates. At the time, a spokesperson Heidi Happonen said the company was concerned about the locally based U.S. flag purse seiners that represent the backbone of the tuna supply to the cannery.

She said the company faced a difficult choice of either slowing down production or importing higher cost raw materials, both of which represented a potentially heavy blow to Tri Marine.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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