Saturday, December 20, 2008

Malaysia: Uncertain times for 60,000 seafood workers

BUTTERWORTH: More than 60,000 workers in the seafood export industry are expected to face difficult times in the next two months should the Government fail to overturn European Union (EU) ban on imports from Malaysia.

The self-imposed ban was implemented in June when the EU Health Authority found unsatisfactory conditions in local aquaculture farms, seafood-processing facilities, fishing vessels and fish-landing areas.

Rather than risking a total EU ban that would have been gazetted into law, the Government imposed a self-ban till the next inspection on the seafood industry, which has been scheduled for next March.

Malaysian Frozen Food Processors Association (MFFPA) president Chng Chin Hooi said many processing plants would not last through Chinese New Year if the Government does not take quick action to rectify the situation.

“Malaysia’s second largest food export industry is in the verge of collapsing due. Seafood exporters have reported an estimated loss in sales and production of more than RM1.5bil to date,” he said at a press conference here Wednesday.

Presently 43 companies in the country export frozen seafood to EU countries.

Chng said seafood exporters have been struggling to stay afloat and have started to retrench workers and implemented reduced working hours since the ban came into force.

“A major seafood exporter in Prai closed down a few months ago, retrenching 300 workers,” he said.

Chng appealed to the Finance Ministry to release a rescue package of RM500mil.

“The rescue package must be in the form of a soft loan with an interest rate hopefully not exceeding 2%.

“The government should also provide tax relief to the affected companies and a special rate for electricity until the crisis is over,” he said.

“The industry is doing well and we are still receiving orders, but because of the ban we cannot move our stocks.

“What the industry needs is a financial helpline to hold our stocks and soften the pressure in repaying our loans to banks,” he said.

Uncertain times for 60000 seafood workers
Malaysia Star, Malaysia