SOLOMONS MUST HELP KEEP TUNA CANNERY AFLOAT

Editorial

Solomon Star HONIARA, Solomon Islands (June 15, 2010) – Tuna products from our very own Soltai Fish and Processing Ltd are slowly disappearing from the shelves in most shops.

The popular second-grade tuna can are now almost gone. The family and baby cans, plus tuna sandwich and chilly, are rapidly disappearing, too.

Soon, and very soon, there’ll be no more Soltai products.

These are signs that the company’s cannery at Noro, Western Province, is still not back in operation.

The company suspended production more than a month ago, saying it had run out of packaging materials. But now we know there’s more.

Soltai was in fact in bad financial shape. It is sinking. It needs at least SB$100 million [US$12 million] to be able to return to full operation.

This is money its shareholders – Western Province (49 percent) and national government (51 percent) – don’t have.

The Soltai board, under the leadership of our very own reputable Tony Hughes, is certainly not napping.

They knew the problem and did come up with a major restructure program that aims to turn the fishing company around.

National Provident Fund (NPF) and Tri-Marine Ltd have offered to provide the SB$100 million Soltai needs to continue operations.

But under the proposed restructure, Western Province will see its 49 percent share reduced to just 10 percent.

This is not to the liking of the provincial executive under the leadership of Premier George Lilo, which has refused to cooperate.

It’s now clear that Soltai’s days are numbered. Unless Western Province and the nation government return to the negotiating table, we will soon see the company collapsing in our face.

Do we want to see that?

The answer is no.

Soltai is a company that has a long history and association with this country. We just cannot allow it to sink because of someone’s petty political interests. The money is there. And we still have time.

The Government and Western Province must act now to protect the imminent demise of Soltai.

And yes, don’t let people’s favourite "Solomon Taiyo" disappear from the shelves.

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