HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Cook Islands scores a regional first
The StarKist/Cook Islands tuna canning venture is the first of its kind, ground breaking, historic

A representative from StarKist Seafood who operate a fish canning factory in Pago, is in Rarotonga to finalise the contract which will see Cook Islands Albacore Tuna processed by the plant for the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) on behalf of the Cook Islands government, under the Golden Tuna brand.
Bruce Leiataua, who specializes in fisheries development, is based in Apia and represents the company which has its Head Office in Pittsburg USA. The company which will be 50 years old next year, is Korean owned by Dongwon Industries.
Incidentally, the company’s Pago plant is the largest stand alone cannery in the world employing around 2,000 people and processing 650 tonnes per day.
Bruce told the Herald on Tuesday morning that the venture with the Cook Islands began when Minister for MMR Hon Teina Bishop and Marine Secretary Ben Ponia visited the plant last July. They asked about the possibility of the plant canning Cook Islands tuna.
Bruce said the company concluded that it should be working closely with Pacific nations for their mutual benefit. The plant also needed to be as competitive as possible, keep people employed and create a source of revenue for the Cook Islands.
This venture is the first of its kind and in that sense is making history in that the owner of a resource is controlling the resource all the way to end product without any capital outlay to build a plant. It’s the first time this is being done said Bruce and the company is hoping to form similar relationships with Samoa, Tonga, Niue and Tahiti. It will certainly be a catalyst for other Pacific nations to consider said Bruce. He describes Minister Bishop’s initiative as “ground breaking.”
The end product will belong to the Cook Islands. It will be a true export with returns to the Cook Islands. In addition to the fishing licenses the country will get a value added product.
As to actual earnings that may potentially be derived, Bruce said it’s too early to tell. The product will be shipped to the Cook Islands and also the NZ market where it will be targeted at Cook Islanders. What will be unique is that the government decides the prices not the overseas retailer. The plan is for the product to be affordable.
How will consumers know the tuna is actually from the Cook Islands? Bruce advised by law the origin of a food product needs to able to be traced. To that end, the tuna in the plant is separated by “lot” and processed as such in case of the need for a product recall.
Bruce said on 20 June, the company, with sponsorship from Air NZ, will bring out a shipment of StarKist lunch kits for distribution to school kids. The product is also significant for its health value especially where children are concerned.
Bruce said when his due diligence is completed, the contract finalized and the product ready to go, the company’s CEO will come out from Pittsburg for the ceremonial signing and official launch. -Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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