Singaporean tuna processor sees advantage in R&D, Chinese fleet

Published on
May 8, 2019

The expansion of China’s distant-water tuna fleet is enabling a new value-added tuna processing industry in one of the country’s main fishing ports, according to the director of Singapore-based processor The Fish Group.

Company founder and director Alvin Loy bought a processing plant in Zhoushan because the city in the past 10 years has become a huge tuna fishery supply base.

“They have been building a lot of fleets,” he said.  A successful sales manager at the frozen tuna business at Vietnam-based frozen tuna firm Hai Vuong, he later sold his shares in the firm to the Dutch-based Culimer group. 

Research and development is central to success in China, Loy said. The company’s factory is rare among Zhoushan tuna processors in the fact that it’s focusing on processing raw cuts, rather than cooked products or canning.

China’s tuna fleet will increasingly dominate distant waters because other players like Japan, Spain and Taiwan have withdrawn, Loy explained.

“It’s a sunset industry,” he said. "It’s really hard work.”

To keep ahead of rising costs in China, Loy has been mechanizing his Zhoushan plant. Additionally, his firm operates a plant in Indonesia processing pole- and line-caught tuna. 

Even as the country’s fleet consolidates its international hold, China’s vast processing sector will consolidate, said Loy – with only the innovative and financially secure firms surviving. 

“To manage a seafood processing factory in China you need raw materials, markets, processing know how and finance,” he said. “You need all of those to be sustainable.”

Local governments will only be able to support ailing firms in the short term, he added.  

“What they can do is limited, such as lowering your tax, but they can’t guide you on business direction,” Loy said. “It’s a very tight place to be if you have 1,000 workers and you’re trimming cod, which is a low-value product.”

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