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Tuna industry development in Baru free zone with no definitions so far

Landing docks. (Photo: Fextun)

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Friday, February 20, 2015, 02:00 (GMT + 9)
The management of Baru Free Zone (BZF), located in the province of Chiriqi, is negotiating with the central government the concession streamlining and the construction of a dock allowing Spanish businessmen to land tuna and then send it to Japanese, European and US markets.
The tuna project under development at Puerto Armuelles comprises two companies: Granjas Atuneras S.A. that is already based in BZF and will be dedicated to the export of the fresh product specifically for the Japanese market; and Fabrica de Exquisiteces de Atun S.A. (Fextun) which will export frozen tuna loin.
However, the project progress is hampered by some obstacles that hinder the installation of operations, since the lack of dock is not the only obstacle that Spanish executives have found in Puerto Armuelles, La Prensa reported.
Tuna is maintained with a controlled diet that involves a daily average of about 100 tonnes of sardines for the fattening process during a period of three to eight months. In addition, as there is no availability of sardine in the eastern coast of Chiriqui, the fish must be imported from Venezuela and Colombia.
Notwithstanding, the management of Baru Free Zone seeks to encourage fishermen in Puerto Armuelles to replace the demand for sardines required by the tuna farm project.
Despite the setbacks, the Spanish businessmen project to hire more than 600 people when they formally begin Granjas Atuneras and Fextun operations.
The idea is to hire mainly labour available in the district of Baru, though most of the work will be aimed at the female workforce.
Meanwhile, the Authority for Micro and Small Enterprises (AMPYME) is developing weekly training for some more specialized jobs so residents of the district of Baru can also aspire to these positions in the companies.
So far, 10 floating cages of about 80 meters in diameter with a capacity of 150 tonnes of tuna for fattening have been installed offshore in the Bay of Charco Azul, two kilometres from Petroterminales S.A. facilities.
With regard to the tuna processing, Fextun project entails an investment of USD 30 million. Here too, progress has been limited because it fully depends on the construction of the mentioned dock, which would receive three own tuna vessels and other ships of local and international suppliers after a day of fishing at sea.
In the face of this background and the setbacks, President of Granjas Atuneras y Fextun, Jose Antonio Cuenda, hopes to expedite pending efforts to achieve the set objectives, as there are fears that delays may encourage tuna businessmen to move to other countries like Ecuador and Guatemala, which have the necessary dock infrastructure to accommodate the ships.

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