Ensis takes aim at China as it ups output of "artisanal" tuna

A leading Maldives’ tuna exporter is hoping Asian buyers will pay for quality as it seeks to increase exports of yellowfin and skipjack to pay for a new processing plant set to open next year.

Maldives fisheries operate on the basis of independent fishermen supplying processors, but face competition from Asian industrial-scale fishery firms freezing onboard and using injections of vegetable extracts to sell “refreshed” tuna, according to Hussain Afeef, general manager of Ensis Fisheries Pvt Ltd.

Maldives exports compete in Europe on the basis of freshness, Afeef said. Product there is caught and processed on the same day and flown to reach European buyers on the second day, explained Afeef. 

While the Maldives is making much of its artisanal production, regulating fishing by industrial vessels in Maldives waters will continue to remain a challenge, Afeef acknowledged. 

“Our coast guard will be watching,” he said. 

Currently, 99 percent of the Maldives’ tuna exports go to Europe and the U.S., but Afeef wants more product to head to Asia. The huge popularity of the Maldives as a tourist destination for Chinese already gives the country’s exporters a marketing head start, Afeef said.

Now, with his firm introducing a new plant and skipjack products, he’s hoping they’ll pay a premium for artisanal Maldives seafood product.


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