Local fisheries development has highest potential for growth | Daily News


Local fisheries development has highest potential for growth

Foreign exchange earnings, employment and national food safety
Shiran  Fernando
Shiran Fernando

Sri Lanka is not simply an island in the Indian Ocean. It is an island with perhaps the largest-sea around it. Located in center of the world map, it show the limitless ocean and its’ resources that Sri Lanka has easy access to.

 Canned Fish Manufacturers Association of Sri Lanka (CFMASL), President. Shiran Fernando  said,   President  Gotabaya Rajapaksa has  seen the  requirement  and  the potential of  having well developed  local industries.  Therefore the aquatic resources that our sea can provide can alone make this country self-sufficient-in our food and nutritional needs. The recent COVID -19 demonstrated the importance and value of having an active fishing industry in the country. This industry can provide opportunity not only to feed our population but for ample export revenue for the country as well. Had the fishing industry been at a level where total local requirement is produced in the country, not only would we have nutritionally sufficient ‘without imports’ and would not undergone the shortages and price ‘hikes for this essential food ‘ as we did, he said.

Potential for investment

Commenting on the  potential for  investment he said, while Sri Lanka does not even produce the canned fish to feed the local population Thailand which has a much smaller sea area (316,000 km2) than Sri Lanka  (517,000 km2) is processing 800,000 tons of fish annually. There by making them the 4th Largest-Tuna canned fish exporters in the world.

With larger territorial waters than Thailand, and an open ocean stretching from Dondra Head to the South Pole, with West to Madagascar, and the Middle East, in the East to Singapore and Australia we have an open field. This sheer potential of this large area alone is enough to attract to foreign Investors. They should be provided with support to carry out fishing in these waters but all the processing facilities which should be set up here in Sri Lanka. Therefore creating ample employment in the country. The setting up of state of the art fish processing facilities will bring in new technologies to this country. This in will support other industries such as agriculture which will have various products to exported worldwide.

According to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources canned fish imports for 2019 Jan – Nov was Rs. 12,940 million. When considering the equivalent in foreign exchange it is an amount easily saved.

Benefits to the country

With the vast fish stocks available in our waters could develop this industry to a world class level. With major foreign investments and foreign currency earnings from exports and creating high paying employment to a major portion of the country. This fishing industry is one of the few industries that will give its’ benefits to the macro and all other sectors above it as well. The loss of her people joining the fishing industry was fell-very acutely. Presently the local fishing industry supports around 600,000 persons. Proper encouragement should be given to this industry this number can increase by 4 to 5 times in as many years. Further the returns to the economy of the country will be much greater than for example the Garment industry where largely’ its’ only the ‘salary’ that benefits the people, he said.

Health benefits  and food safety

Addressing the value of nutrition for a nation Fernando said, a healthy nation is a rich nation. Today 33 % of the population in Sri Lankan suffer from Anemia.  Anemia, in people create a several serious conditions including, dizziness, and organ failure, dementia, irritability, tiredness, and headache, difficulty in focusing and chest pains. Being in an anemic condition is especially dangerous to those during pregnancy. It can cause chronic health conditions such as kidney failure and cancer, which are now among the leading causes of death among the Sri Lankan population. It also causes a drop in fertility and increases child mortality as well as irritability, tiredness, headache, difficulty in focusing and chest pains. It is also a cause for chronic health conditions such as kidney failure and cancer, which are now among the leading causes of death among the Sri Lankan population. The benefits derived from consuming fish such as Omega 3 and other fish oils or largely in fresh fish which is in locally canned fish.

Local requirement-supply and demand

 The local consumption of canned fish is around 200,000 cans per day. This amount can be increased higher if better price better quality products are available in the market. Operating on the economies of scale the greater the local production lower the prices. This will mean benefits for the population as a whole.

Local Manufacturers handicapped

The facilities enjoyed by the importers far outstrip the local manufacturers. The importer can open an LC without any margin. This is valid for 90 days.  Even then when they fail to settle on the due date, it is another 6 months before the banks request payment. Hence this creates an importation of 8 million cans of fish every month. The canned fish importers do not need any capital to carry out their business.

With a level playing field the local caners have ample capacity to meet-the total demand though they get little or no help at the moment. At present on average 100, 00 cans are manufactured daily among 5 canning factories working under capacity. Further the local canning industry buys fish stock directly from the boat owners and they collect cash up front. The cans, labels, wages all benefit the support industries and the workers themselves.

 Their safety in local fish (wild catch)

The other advantage in the consumption locally caught fish (wild catch) is that they are canned no sooner they are caught.

No frozen fish stock that is canned.

The local canning industry is run to the highest level of industrial standards.  The benefit is hit this way the highest-level of nutrition is maintained. Therefore local canned fish is actually fresh fish. As the seas around Sri Lanka has no parasitic worms, consuming local can fish is very safe. 

 This is a major concern to be taken seriously when considering the risks to the general public may face in the light of the COVID19 pandemic.

The benefits of developing the local fish canning industry is a major win win situation. It will save foreign currency, increase the per capital income, create a healthy population and an ample opportunities of gainful employment for the people of Sri Lanka, Fernando said. 

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