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Nilandhoo Rihaakuru factory; turning tradition into profit

06 June 2023, MVT 10:06
[File] Azeeza demonstrates the production of Rihaakuru in her factory
06 June 2023, MVT 10:06

One of the inhabited islands in Faafu atoll is renowned for offering the best grouper fishing experience. Another inhabited island in the atoll stands out for having a high proportion of young people engaged in fishing activities.

What makes Faafu atoll unique is that each inhabited island within it has its own distinct attribute or characteristic for which it is well-known.

Similarly, Nilandhoo, an island Faafu atoll, is renowned for its thriving fisheries industry. Over the past decade, it has gained fame for its production and sale of Rihaakuru, a fish-based sauce which is a traditional cuisine of the Maldives.

“This is our work,” said Azeeza Mohamed, who has spent over ten years selling Rihaakuru. Together with her husband, the couple operate a factory where they produce Rihaakuru and Valhomas (smoked tuna) on a daily basis.

A portion of Nilandhoo has been leased for the production of Rihaakuru and Valhomas. The rental fee for the land, which spans 2,500 square feet, is MVR 375.

[File] Valhomas produced in the factory in Faafu atoll Nilandhoo

A woman involved in cooking Rihakuru shared, "In the past, we used to make it in our homes. However, since we were provided with the land, we can now produce more Rihakuru by utilizing separate sections specifically dedicated to production".

"Now it has significantly grown. To purchase the fish and Rihaakuru, people come from other islands. Additionally, fishermen come here to weigh their catch.”

"Now it [the business] has grown significantly. People from other islands come here to purchase fish and Rihaakuru. Additionally, fishermen visit the island to weigh their catch," the woman said. The increased demand for their products has attracted customers from various locations, making Nilandhoo a hub for fish and Rihaakuru trade.

Five plots have been designated as mini-factories for the production of Rihaakuru. The land is divided into two section, with one dedicated for drying the fish and the other for cooking it. In the cooking area, there are two tanks filled with water to facilitate the process.

Azeeza and her husband cook over hundred kilos of fish everyday. On days when they have a larger catch, sometimes they cook up to three tonnes of fish.

[File] Fishermen sell their catch in the island

A large bottle of Rihaakuru is sold for MVR 300. According to Azeeza, the biggest market for Rihaakuru is in Nilandhoo.

"We are unable to meet the high demand in Malé, the capital city. Our production is mainly focused on meeting the needs of the island market," said Azeeza.

On the other hand, the production of Valhomas is specifically targeted for the market in Malé. Workers clean and cut the fish, which is then cooked and dried. Once ready, the Valhomas is packed in sacks and transported by suppliers to be sold in the markets in the capital.

“We sell a kilo of Valhomas for MVR 50. From selling Rihaakuru alone we get about MVR 30,000 per month,” she said.

According to Azeeza, the production of Valhomas and Rihaakuru is a lucrative business as Maldivians rely on them as staple food. She believes it is a business that will always have a market demand and will never go out of business.

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