DESCRIBING his venture into the production of smoked fish fillets simply as trying to add value to our fish commodity, Schulte Maetoloa of Gizo, Western Province is making waves with his product despite still being in its trial phase.
Popularly known for his musical passion and contribution to the national and regional music scene as the artist Solid-T, Schulte had slowly moved away from his music over the past years to focus on other family obligations.
Experimenting with a number of business ventures and gaining experience in our national economic culture, he is known among his friends as a visionary as well as a man of action.
His recent venture has directed him into the smoked fish market and was an idea that came about after seeing the plights of local fishermen in the Western Province where he is a resident.
“I had come to realize that our fish market was in danger of becoming saturated, and despite numerous streams of market opportunities for fish and fish products, the capability of rural fishermen to tap into it was easier said than done.
“My previous ventures had allowed me to save a little money, just enough to begin trials in smoking fish fillets, but even now we are restricted by our capacity to grow and accommodate a national market.”
He proudly explained that the basis of his market is banked on the freshness of his fish stocks, and while this alone brings a number of logistic issues, he has no plan to change that at this.
“It is important for us to produce our product from freshly caught fish that we receive and process with the first few hours.
“One obvious reason for this is because fish is a staple food in our country, and it would be greatly obvious to many customers if our smoked fish was made from long-time stored fish stocks,” he said.
People’s familiarity with the taste of fresh fish is a challenge for Schulte’s seafood but is a blessing in terms of being assured that a market for the delicacy is readily available.
However, Schulte said facility-wise they are not able to immediately reach their goal national sales point attention to the need for larger storage and processing structures and hygienic health standards which have to be adhered to.
“Our dream is to one day be able to produce and sell our product outside the Solomon Islands, we believe this is how we truly positively affect rural lives.”
In their effort to assist fishermen and as well as ensure offering product made from fresh fish, ice cubes and an esky is given to fishers to use while they are out at sea so that any catch they get is quickly placed into the ice to retain its freshness.
Attempting to retain the freshness of his product Schulte has opted to vacuum-packed his smoked fish slices which have so far proven to keep the fish fresh and tasty for a longer time, and the method has so far shown to work well in both refrigerated and non-refrigerated packs of smoked fish.
He said, though the process is still in its trial phase, they are taking steps to ensure they have quality over quantity, and hope that in the future they will be able to attain quantity and still keep their quality.
“I think the whole picture of the business we are getting into is truly with the hope that everyone included in the whole process has a hand in the final product of which they can truly benefit from,” he said.
Schulte at this moment is concentrating on honing in on a final desired taste and texture of the smoked fish he is hoping to expand, but also offers fresh packs of uncooked fish fillets of tuna, snapper, and other fish on demand.
“We would not have been able to reach this far in our progress without the help of friends and family who have supported us so far, and can only hope for more help to finalize and bring our product to the rest of the country.”
BY TERENCE ZIRU
Gizo News Bureau