A 10-rai site in the Dawei Special Economic Zone’s initial phase was reserved for about Bt30 million. As soon as VSI Union Thai is registered, an ice plant will be constructed, to be followed by a processing plant whose output will be going to Thailand as well as Italy and Japan.
“In five years, more seafood businesses in Thailand will move here as this is home to most of our workers,” he said while inspecting his site last week.
He was chairman of the Ranong Chamber of Commerce.
His family now operates plants in Ranong, and Samut Sakhon. Of about 1,000 workers, 90 per cent come from Myanmar.
Somchai made this decision despite his bitter experience from a long time ago when his freezers located near Myeik were confiscated by a military government.
But given the depletion of marine life in Thailand’s seas, he continued sourcing seafood from Myeik and Dawei in the past 15 years. Some 14 locals are now responsible for the sourcing.
He is also now confident that his business will be protected under Myanmar law, just like other foreign businesses in the country.
Now, he sees only the bright side. The abundance of seafood and factory hands is one thing. He also expects to gain a lot from investment privileges offered to businesses in special economic zones as well as the European Union’s generalised system of preferences (GSP) offered to labour-intensive industries in Myanmar.
“GSP should give us an ample handicap (for exporting to the EU),” he said.
The decision was also made at the time when Thailand’s seafood industry is facing some non-tariff measures. The EU’s tough requirements for Thailand to comply with the illegal, unreported and unregulated rule result in difficulties in sourcing materials, he said.
He is now waiting for the one-stop service centre to open at the Dawei SEZ. This will confirm investment privileges his company will be entitled to.
Labour-intensive industries like textile and seafood are the first targets of this SEZ. The full phase, however, expects to attract other industries including automobile, steel, electronics and electric goods, rubber, metals, chemicals, refineries, fertilisers, plastics and pharmaceuticals.
While he was waiting, four freezers were hauled from Thailand and are ready to transport raw seafood to Ranong and even Mahachai. Each can carry two tonnes of seafood.
Once the processing factory is up and running, it will produce frozen shrimp and filets. The shortage of skilled labour would limit the plant’s capacity somewhat.
However, that is not a problem. If things go as planned, Somchai even mulls acquiring 10 more rai in the economic zone.