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Cablegate: Imi Maldives Fisheries Sector Opportunities

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 001328

SIPDIS

COMMERCE FOR ARI BENAISSA
STATE FOR SA/INS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KTDB BTIO EFIS ECON ETRD BEXP MV ECONOMICS
SUBJECT: IMI MALDIVES FISHERIES SECTOR OPPORTUNITIES


1. Summary: The fisheries sector in the Maldives is
growing rapidly. Fish exports were $69.1 million in 2003,
up 41 percent from 2002. Maldives would like to further
develop its fisheries sector, which is dominated by tuna,
to increase exports and value added production. The
expansion in the fisheries sector will present
opportunities for US companies. End Summary.

The Fisheries Sector
--------------------

2. Tuna is the most important marine resource in the
Maldives, representing 90 percent of the fishing catch,
with skipjack tuna being by far the most important species
at about 70 percent of the total catch. Skipjack is a
lower quality tuna and is mainly utilized for canning.
Skipjack is exported to Europe fresh, to Asia frozen for
canning, and to Sri Lanka dried. Only four private
fisheries zone operators and the government-owned Maldives
Industrial Fisheries Company Ltd (MIFCO) are permitted to
collect and export skipjack tuna. Skipjack exports in all
forms were 108 thousand metric tons in 2003.

3. Yellowfin tuna, the second most important fisheries
resource, comprise about 15 percent of the total catch.
Yellowfin tuna fetches a much higher price than skipjack,
and is more likely to be exported fresh or frozen as whole
fish or loins. Total Yellow Fin exports in 2003 were 22.9
metric tons. Major markets for yellowfin tuna include
Europe and the Japanese sashimi market. The collection and
export of yellowfin tuna is not limited to zone operators.

4. In addition, there is multi-species reef fishery and
limited fishery for aquarium fish (exported live).

Recent Trends
-------------

5. The last two years have yielded especially large hauls,
due in part to the privatization of skipjack export.
Fish export earnings registered a 41 percent increase in
2003 to $69 million, following a 37 percent increase in
2002, mainly on the strength of the large frozen tuna
exports during both years.

6. The government initiated a fisheries liberalization
program in May 2001 in which Maldives was divided into four
fishing zones running north to south. Two zones were
privatized, and two zones continue to be controlled by
MIFCO. Within each privatized zone, two zones operators
are licensed to collect, process and export tuna. The
private companies have initially tended to concentrate on
frozen fish exports, but intend to expand into more
processed exports. Value-added facilities are now under
development in both MIFCO and privatized zones to expand
freezing, canning, drying and other processing capabilities
and should be operating by 2005.

7. Fishing inside the 75-mile coastal zone is limited to
Maldivians. Foreigners are allowed to fish only in the
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which extends from the
coastal zone to a 200-mile offshore limit. Fishing in the
EEZ is long-line and is dominated by foreign companies.
MIFCO is the only Maldivian company currently engaged in
long-line fishing in the EEZ, and its venture has not yet
proved profitable.

8. Within the coastal area, harvesting is performed by
local fishermen in small and medium sized motorized fishing
vessels (known as dhonis) using traditional Maldivian
fishing methods-primarily small scale reef fishing and pole
and line tuna fishing-which are not environmentally
detrimental. The recent increase in the price of fish
offered to fisherman due to competition between zone
operators has encouraged fisherman to upgrade to larger
boats that can bring in a larger haul and remain at sea for
a longer periods of time. Net fishing is illegal in the
Maldives, and long-line fishing is permitted only in the
EEZ.

MIFCO
-----

9. MIFCO is engaged in purchasing and processing tuna in
two zones and exporting under its own brand. In addition,
it is processing fresh and frozen yellowfin tuna collected
by other exporting companies. MIFCO is still the only
company canning at this time, and also operates ice plants
in its zones and a fresh frozen processing facility near
Male.

10. MIFCO plans to invest $5 million to expand skipjack
collection and increase the capacity of its ice plants over
the next two years, its first investment in skipjack since
its creation. MIFCO also plans to increase its investment
in yellowfin tuna by building a fresh fish processing
facility on Gan island in the south of the country. The
project will cost around $7-8 million and should be
completed by 2005.

Barriers to Development
-----------------------

11. The fisheries sector is currently disadvantaged by the
lack of training for fishermen.

12. Financing is difficult for fisheries development
because foreign investment tends to be drawn to the more
visible, more highly organized and less risky tourism
sector. This is compounded by the lack of collateral
afforded by the licensing process, the past loans taken out
by MIFCO, which have yet to be repaid in full, and the
general lack of knowledge in the banking community about
the fisheries sector.

LDC graduation
--------------

13. A large proportion of Maldivian fish products are
currently exported duty-free to the European Union (EU)
under LDC Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programs.
Following LDC graduation, the duty on EU exports could
increase to 24.3 percent.

Potential Markets
-----------------

14. Maldives fisheries industry present several areas with
potential for U.S. suppliers.

Long-term financing: Financing is a perennial problem for
Maldivian companies due to the dearth of development banks
operating in the country. Private firms rely on foreign
banks for long-term capital.

Equipment Supply: New facilities will require
refrigeration and processing equipment. Ice plants and
cooling systems are especially necessary. Private
companies are mostly familiar with American brands and
commend their reliability.

Fish Product Packaging: There will be opportunities to
introduce and supply fish canning and disposable pouch
packaging technology, in addition to technology for
preparing pet foods, lunch packets, sausages and cutlets,
fish oil and fishmeal.

Technical Expertise: Aquaculture is still in infant stages
in the Maldives. Foreign technical knowledge will be
required to investigate its feasibility.

US Companies interested in exploring these opportunities
can contact the companies below:

Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company Ltd. (MIFCO)
Block 389, Hilaalee Magu
Male' 20-04, Republic of Maldives
Tel: 960-323932
Fax: 960-323955
Email: info@mifco.com.mv
Website: www.mifco.com.mv

Zone Operators:

Island Enterprises Pvt. Ltd.
Maaram, First Floor, Henveiru Ameeru
Ahmed Magu, P.O. Box 20169
Male' 20-05, Republic of Maldives
Tel: 960-323531/325643/322747
Fax: 960-325645
Email: fiberbot@dhivehinet.net.mv

Jausa Fisheries Project
G. Looza, First Floor, Hadheebee Magu
Male' 20-04, Republic of Maldives
Tel: 960-317575
Fax: 960-320997
Email: info@jausa.com.mv
Website: www.jausa.com.mv

Horizon Fisheries Pvt. Ltd.
Third Floor, No. 12 Boduthakurufaanu Magu
Male', Republic of Maldives
Tel: 960-328855
Fax: 960-324455
Email: info@horizonfisheries.com
Website: www.horizonfisheries.com

Exporters:

HMS Maldives Pvt. Ltd.
ADK Tower, Third Floor, Ameer Ahmed Magu
Male', 20096, Republic of Maldives
Tel: 960-334805
Fax: 960-325779
Website: www.hms.com.mv

Marine Coral Maldives Pvt. Ltd.
Alihavaa Building, Ibrahim Hassan Didi Magu
Male', Republic of Maldives
Tel: 960-313307
Fax: 960-325645
Email: coral@dhivehinet.net.mv
ENTWISTLE

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