CRAB(MEAT) MENTALITY

CEBU, August 11, 2003 (STAR) By Angelica A. Angel  - For Sally and Merlin dela Fuente, a business opportunity came in mid-2001 when a relative who owned a factory that exported processed canned crab was looking for a meat extraction facility.

The couple put up SM Seafoods with an initial capital of P500,000.

"We began procuring 300 kilograms of fresh crabs every day from fishermen, with five people extracting the meat from the different parts of the crab," said general manager Jessyl Ortega. Like pork, crab meat is sold at varying prices, depending on what part the meat comes from

The 100 square meter factory is located along the shoreline of Madridejos, a municipality of Bantayan Island off the northwest coast of Cebu.

SM Seafoods buys crab year-round at a set price of P80 per kilogram.

"Because we need a steady supply, fishermen prefer to sell their catch to us even during the dry season when crab is scarce and the price is higher," said Ortega.

The company has kept pace with the increased needs of its Cebu mainland buyer. On the average, it buys 1,000 kilograms of fresh crab daily from a roster of 20 fishermen-suppliers. During the rainy season, its supply dwindles to 500 to 600 kilograms a day.

Problems

There are, however, some major problems that have restricted the growth of SM Seafoods. "Our biggest problem is electricity," said Ortega. Electricity in Bantayan is unreliable and power interruption is common.

"When that happens, there is no ice and our products spoil. That spells losses for us," she said. Every 1,000 kilograms of crab require about 30 to 50 blocks of ice at P160 per block.

To solve this problem, SM Seafoods will be putting up an ice factory that would enable it to process 2,000 kilograms a day and to increase its suppliers base by another eight.

"With our increased production, there is a lot of room for growth. We can better compete with the other suppliers of our buyer," she said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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