Frabelle plans expansion beyond tuna processing
Lae-based Frabelle Fishing Corporation is one of the major partners behind the Majestic Seafood venture, which opened in 2013. But Frabelle’s General Manager James Johnston says the company has big expansion plans of its own, too.
Frabelle is one of three joint-venture partners in Majestic Seafoods, the new tuna-processing plant that was opened in Malahang, near Lae in June 2013 (see page 16).
While tuna from the joint venture cannery will be sold by Majestic, primarily to the European Union, Frabelle itself will concentrate on selling to the local PNG market, through local wholesaler, Seeto Kui.
At the same time, Frabelle has a program of investment that will see six of its 20 PNG-flagged catcher boats replaced over the next two years and the construction of a new wharf.
‘This means we are much more efficient with unloading our catch, missing out a few steps,’ Johnston said. A second wharf will commence construction early in 2014.
Boosting tuna output will also require the replacement of old equipment.
‘We’re doing major improvements in the factory,’ says Johnston of his facility in Lae.
‘In every area, we’re changing something to make it more viable— conveyor systems, new packing systems, new labelling systems. Because the processing plant is seven years old, it’s time for an upgrade.
‘We put in a new blast freezer that’s going to double our output of frozen lines. There’s a new 500-tonne cold room being finished off now. That’s at minus 35 [degrees Celsius], not at minus 25, because the colder you can keep yellow fin the better the yellow fin stays.’
Frabelle also now has a 300-tonne storage area for all its sunflower, olive and soya bean oils.
New products for export
The next stage will be to build a second 3,000 tonne freezer. It will store ‘rawpacks’: single-cooked fish that customers can put on salads or eat straight away.
‘That’s a separate market,’ explains Johnston. ‘It only goes to France and Germany at this time.’
Frabelle is the only plant in PNG that currently does this. It also exports stockfeed and chickenfeed to the region.
Diversification is the name of Frabelle’s game. As well as the involvement with Majestic Seafoods, Johnston has also been talking to local governments around the country to set up co-operatives to bring coral and reef fish from places like Kavieng or Manus to Lae for on-selling.
The company is also looking beyond fish processing: it is one of the tenderers for the new power station in Lae, and has installed a biomass boiler in Lae for which it will be buying coconut shell for fuel. All this is done without much fanfare, which is the way Johnston likes it.
‘In every area, we’re changing something to
make it more viable’
Some of Frabelle’s Isabella range of canned tuna.