Chicken of the Sea International (COS) has sold the tuna cannery it shut down in American Samoa to Tri Marine International for an undisclosed amount. The deal was reached this week in Honolulu after two days of discussions, informed Governor Togiola Tulafono.
COS closed its Samoa Packing facility on 30 September 2009 and left more than 2,000 workers jobless.
Chairman of the US territory’s Chamber of Commerce Joey Cummings said the signing of a deal with a global leader in the tuna supplier business will bolster employment and confidence in American Samoa.
“We are certainly welcoming both the commerce of having Tri Marine doing business on our island. And while it’s not a magic bullet that will solve all of our problems from an economic standpoint, I’ve got to say it’s going to be a real boost in consumer confidence,” he stated, reports Radio New Zealand International.
|Samoa Governor Togiola Tulafono (Photo: americansamoa.gov)
Tulafono said it could take six months to get the plant up and running under Washington-based Tri Marine, Associated Press reports.
Per the agreement, COS has terminated its land lease that would have been valid for three more years. The territory and Tri Marine then signed a new lease agreement.
The government of American Samoa is giving Tri Marine a tax exemption for an undisclosed amount.
“Running the cannery is a "big challenge, a major challenge for us," admitted Tri Marine President and CEO Renato Curto. “One thing we one to make sure people understand in American Samoa is that this is not happening in a few days, it’s a long process and we have to redesign the plant and we will get where we want to get little by little.”
He said the company’s objective is to produce very high-quality tuna and move it to the continental US market.
He declined to tell how many workers Tri Marine intends to hire.
"It's very difficult to say […] We don't want to raise expectations," he justified.
When leaving American Samoa last year, COS cited a 2007 federal law that required minimum wage hikes yearly there until the federal minimum wage reached USD 7.25 an hour. StarKist Co decided to lay off 800 workers at its cannery in 2010 for the same reason, as it would preclude the firm from competing with low-cost Asian rivals.
Even though the most recent USD 0.50 hike was supposed to go into effect last week, bringing the minimum wage for cannery workers to USD 5.26 an hour, President Barack Obama at the last minute signed a bill into law that delays the wage hike’s implementation in American Samoa in 2010 and 2011.
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By Natalia Real