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Lautoka marine exporter in for unique awards

November 24
12:00 2011

image Written By : RACHNA LAL. It was passion for marine life which made couple Walt and Deborah Smith start off a company which exports live marine products to distributors of the aquarium industry and public aquariums worldwide.
Mr Smith has been in this industry since 1972 and is recognised as an industry leader on sustainable harvest techniques and high quality livestock that has put Fiji in the forefront as an example for other countries to follow.
And what began as a small company in Tonga, has today expanded to become a multi-million dollar company in Fiji.
Walt Smith International (Fiji) Limited (WSI) was set-up in Lautoka in 1996 after Mr and Mrs Smith were invited to expand their business in Fiji by the Fisheries Department in 1994.
Mr Smith was told by officials that this was an emerging industry in Fiji and they wanted them to set the example of a proper holding facility based on the investment and careful planning they saw in Tonga.
Mr Smith said they made the move because it made sense as Fiji’s large international airport would allow them to reach many destinations for their market that Tonga could not.
The company now grows more corals than the amount harvested yearly. They are capable of planting 2000 pieces weekly which is done often to keep up with demand.
WSI has entered the TFL Prime Minister’s Exporter of the Year Awards once again this year after giving it a shot last year. The gala night will be held tomorrow at Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa in Denarau.
They have entered under the Unique Exporter of the Year, Fisheries Exporter of the Year, Medium Exporter of the Year and Large Exporter of the Year awards.
Mr Smith said it was the increase in export of farmed products over the years that had inspired the company to enter the exporter contest.
“We feel that there is little known about our activities and we are sometimes met with doubt when discussing issues on sustainability.
“We see this also as one way to educate people about what we stand for and bridge the gap for a better understanding.
“If by chance we win one of the awards, more will be known about our dedication to raise awareness of our marine ecosystem that we all share,” he said.
WSI exports around $5 million in marine products annually and Mr Smith indicated that before the worldwide economic turndown, this figure was about $7M.
“About half of that income goes directly to the freight companies and airlines. The villages that supply the live rock receive approximately $500,000 annually for their partnership while the rest goes to the many employees and local services within Fiji,” he said.
Mr Smith stated that the multi-million dollar facility in Lautoka was carefully built to ensure the health of animals in their care would remain healthy and happy until exported.
“The facility is constantly being upgraded with the latest technology as it becomes available to keep up with our policy of best environment for animals in our care,” he said.

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