SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 21) - Hiroshi Tokuhisa's love affair with Fiji started with fish.

It was fish that brought him from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to be a multi-million dollar investor in a small South Pacific country, which he knew nothing about until six years ago.

With 50 employees, Tokuhisa set up a small skipjack tataki processing plant in Walu Bay.

Skipjack tataki is used to make the Japanese delicacy - sashimi.

The operation was the first of its kind in the country and the only one to date.

Today, he has invested over FJ$6 million [US$3.4 million]to build a new factory at Rokobili Street opposite the Suva cemetery.

Tokuhisa was involved in fish wholesaling in Tokyo for 10 years before he decided to set up in Fiji.

"In Tokyo, most wholesalers were buying from factories in China," he said. "So I checked where they were getting their fish from and found it was from the South Pacific. I decided then that it was better to set up here, process the fish then send it to Japan."

Skipjack tataki is made from skipjack tuna and is baked on the outside and raw on the inside.

"While it takes days in other countries to go and fish and come back, here it takes only six to seven hours," Tokuhisa said. "It was therefore better for me to set up my own processing plant."

Tokuhisa clarified that their operation was a processing one, not canning.

"The temperature we preserve the fish is -60 degrees so it is of higher quality. Canneries store their fish at higher temperatures."

While Tokuhisa has a fishing vessel, he also buys from other Fijian and Korean vessels.

In a week, the company processes about 20 tons of skipjack tataki.

And in a month, it sends 10 container loads of the product. Each container has a 20-ton capacity.

Japan is currently the company's only export market but Mr Tokuhisa is thinking of exporting to Europe and the United States in the future.

"There is a big demand in Japan for skipjack tataki," Tokuhisa said.

Opened last week by the vice-president Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, the new factory is two and a half times bigger than the old factory and has better production facilities.

Tokuhisa said their produce would also be of superior quality.

"In Japan, the better the quality, the higher the price but it is expensive," he said.

The move to the new factory has also enabled the Japanese to hire 20 more workers.

The factory now has two production lines, each capable of producing up to 10 tons.

Tosa Bussan is exporting FJ$10 million [US$5.7 million] worth of fish per year but this is expected to increase to FJ$50 million [US$28.6 million] in the next three years.

Tokuhisa, meanwhile, is thinking of starting up a retirement village in Pacific Harbour. The project is expected to cost around FJ$60 million [US$34.4 million].

However, he refrained from elaborating on the project until plans were finalized.

February 22, 2006

Fiji Times Online: .

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