14 Oct 2016

American Samoa to lose hundreds of cannery jobs

12:30 pm on 14 October 2016

Employees of Samoa Tuna Processors (STP) are learning today that its canning operations are shutting down indefinitely on December 11th because of adverse business conditions.

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Hundreds of workers are expected to lose their jobs. Photo: RNZI

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

The $US70 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 US.

The CEO 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 STP 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, STP was exporting fresh frozen fish to markets in the US 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 US 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.

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