Govt to build largest fishing harbour in Matara | Daily News

Govt to build largest fishing harbour in Matara

Billions for fisheries sector development
State Minister Kanchana Wijesekara inspecting the production line at TESS Cannery in Peliyagoda last week. Pictures by Wimal Karunathilaka.
State Minister Kanchana Wijesekara inspecting the production line at TESS Cannery in Peliyagoda last week. Pictures by Wimal Karunathilaka.

The construction of Sri Lanka’s largest Fishing harbour with an investment of Rs 9 billion in Gandara, Devinuwara in the Matara district has commenced, Kanchana Wijesekara, State Minister of Ornamental Fish, Inland Fish and Prawn Farming, Fishery Harbour Development, Multi-Day Fishing and Fish Exports told media on the sidelines of a factory inspection tour of Sri Lanka’s canned fish manufacturers TESS Group in Peliyagoda last week.

The State Minister said it would have a natural depth of about nine meters which could accommodate larger vessels and they would spend close to Rs 7 billion in government funds and another Rs 2 billion for necessary acquisitions of land for the project. The total cost on part of the government will add up to Rs 9 billion. Wijesekera said they planned to open the harbour in December 2023 and are right on track to finish work in time. He said they have also started two anchorages in Mawella and Rakawa which will be completed in 15 months.Wijesekara said they would also start operations this year to build the largest fisheries harbour after Gandara in Point Pedro which would be done with ADB funding of Rs 14 billion which would also have a component for agro-culture. This will bring opportunities for seaweeds, sea cucumber, oyster farming, mussels and all kinds of value-added products that could go direct to the export market.The minister also expressed optimism that fish export revenue that dipped by Rs 14 billion in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic would normalize in 2021. Wijesekara said COVID-19 hurt Lankan fish exports because most of the year the European markets were shut down and even now most of the European nations were closed and restaurants were not operative. As a result, the country’s fish exports took a huge hit he said.

Sri Lanka had Rs 53 billion revenue from fish exports in 2019 but in 2020 it had come down to Rs 39 billion. This represents about a Rs 14 billion drop in exports. However, in 2019 the country’s fish imports stood at Rs 37 billion, but it has only come down to Rs 35 billion in 2020.

He said out of the Rs 35 billion the country has spent Rs 12 billion on the import of dried sprats. To address this issue the government in the last three months has increased the taxes on these items with taxes for food fish increased from Rs 52 to Rs 200, dried fish from Rs 50 to Rs 127 and Maldives fish from Rs 100 to Rs 300

Wijesekera said one of the most positive aspects was that the country’s fish production numbers had increased last year and it has gone into mostly local consumption.

As a result, the country has managed to reduce canned fish imports by about 20 % and most of the local fish production has gone into local cans.

He said although previously local canned fish manufacturers too depended somewhat on fish imports, during the last few months almost 90 percent has been processed with local fish production.

He said the country needs to manage its resources well and there was a big harvest coming in with them curtailing illegal fishing. This is one area that had to be still worked out was the Indian trawlers. If that is properly managed the domestic harvest would be enough to support the domestic requirement as well as also to reach the export market.

The minister said that the government policy has also changed to benefit the local production. Although it was not possible to stop imports, it was important to find ways to manage that and that’s why they increased taxes on imports. In the future when the country’s domestic requirement is fulfilled by the local canneries the taxes on imported cans can be increased further because it is not required to import fish into the country.

A Cabinet Paper has been submitted to take over the Oluvil Harbour in the Ampara District with its processing plants, storage facilities and cool room with a 2,200 MT capacity to be used as a fisheries harbour.

Director Shevan Fernando, State Minister Kanchana Wijesekeca and CEO Shiran Fernando inspecting the product.