Data loading...

Opinion From Solomon: Removal Luthi Machine Lowers Tuna Quality

I wish to add my few comments to Veronica Uteo’s article, which was published on this paper on Tuesday May 5, 2009.

Surprisingly, but I must agree with Veronica, that the canned tuna currently produced by Soltai are of a much lower quality than previous years.

I may be wrong here, but it would appear that the new management, whose members are mostly from Trimarine (TM) group, are more concerned on satisfying the international markets, to keep TM businesses going without giving much consideration at all in looking after the local canned tuna market.

The alleged removal of the Luthi machine from cannery which had been responsible for producing the high quality canned tuna, including the famous chillie taiyo, is the best example of this ignorance by this new management towards the local market.

The monthly lease of the Luthi machine was about USD$3, 000, and this is far more less than what Soltai is paying for as salary for a TM expatriate manager.

There was no logical reason whatsoever to remove the Luthi machine from the cannery where the monthly lease can be easily paid for by the normal canned tuna sales.

Moreover, it is quite interesting to hear from the SIBC news on Thursday 7th May, 2009, in which Thomas Dorku, the current Soltai’s General Manager, states that the company’s exit from fishing was to concentrate and improve on fish processing.

This is an inaccurate statement because as long as Soltai purchase fish from NFD’s vessels for cannery processing, and not using the Luthi machine, there will always be no improvement in the quality and taste of canned tuna produced for the local market.

On the same SIBC news, Mr Dorku further commented that Soltai did not have the resources to manage a fishing operations.

This is another erroneous statement.  This is because Soltai’s establishment in Noro was built purposely for fishing operations and Soltai definitely has sufficient resources including skilled human power to successfully operate these two fishing vessels.

Why giving inaccurate comments to the media and who is going to benefit from such inaccurate statements?

I firmly believe that there has been an intentionally hidden agenda to close down Soltai fishing operations.

There is an ample evidence to suggest that this was done to give as many businesses to NFD, another company of TM.

NFD has been building up her presence in Noro as Soltai faced financial problems with a huge debt to TM.

Did NFD play a major part in ensuring that Soltai closed down her fishing operations?

Did NFD also play a major part in convincing the fisheries & other ministers to reject Soltai's application for a purseine license with Celebes Fishing Company, a Filippino fishing company, in 2007 to jointly operate purseine operations in SI?

Did some of members of Soltai's board been paid off to influence the board resolutions to bring in the new TM backed team to take over the management of Soltai?

These are very disturbing questions where only a proper government inquiry can provide truthful answers for such questions.

The closure of pole & line fishing is definitely a good news to NFD, but at the same time, a bad news to Soltai.

There is no competition in the fishing areas anymore.

NFD vessels are now unloading their catches into Soltai cold store with no restriction at all, not like before when Soltai was operating her fishing vessels.

Furthermore by offloading their catches into Soltai cold store, NFD vessels can get as much catches in the shortest period of time possible, hence NFD earns more money in just a bleak of an eye.

They do not have to wait for days or weeks anymore for a carrier to empty their catches.

In the end the result of Soltai's closure of her fishing operations is gigantic profit to NFD, good returns on investment to shareholder TM, and all these to the detrimental of poor Soltai.

Sadly Soltai could have run the two new pole & line vessels, namely Soltai 101 and 105, had she been given a chance by the board, who lacked the vision to be more proactive in reviving Soltai's fishing operations.

Instead they sold off these two best pole & line vessels with latest state of the art in fishing technology.

There was no reason at all to do away with the two vessels as they could be definitely profitable to operate since they are fairly new & fuel efficient; therefore no major repairing costs for the new few years.

Soltai could have retained these vessels purposely to supply fish for canned tuna production for the local market consumption.

There is doubt too on the legality on the sales of the two new pole & line vessels, which were donated by Japanese Government in 2004.

One of the conditions of that Japanese aid was that the ownership of the two vessels must remain with Soltai, a wholly government owned enterprise.

If it was true that the two vessels were sold off to a private company, then this would upset the Japanese Government, and therefore SI would find it very difficult in the future to secure funding for fishing vessels it may request.

On the last note, there are far more questions than answers regarding the current restructuring of Soltai and the bringing in of the new TM backed management to Soltai.

There are some evidences that the new management in Soltai may be acting in the best interests of TM and NFD and not fully committed in reviving Soltai at all.

The Soltai's board of directors too have to answer to the SI population on the current poor quality and taste of canned tuna.

It is my hope that Soltai's board when it next meets, will seriously take stock on all the above issues, when reviewing TM's management contract of Soltai.