Canned fish industry eyes foreign markets | Sunday Observer

Canned fish industry eyes foreign markets

Officials of the Canned Fish Manufacturers Association at the media briefing. Pic: Shan Rambukwella
Officials of the Canned Fish Manufacturers Association at the media briefing. Pic: Shan Rambukwella

With an ambitious expansion plan to scale up capacity in terms of production and labour, the local canned fish industry is looking at the export market to become not only a foreign exchange saving industry, but a foreign exchange earning industry as well, President Canned Fish Manufacturers Association, Shiran Fernando said in Colombo last week.

“The local industry which started four years ago has progress rapidly despite not having a level playing field due to certain policy decisions taken by the government. The reduction of import tax by Rs. 50 in 2015 was a big blow to the industry which is capable of supplying the total requirement of the country at present,” he said.

The local canned fish industry saves US $ 64 million by engaging in production annually.

“The industry has four factories, but they are not functioning to its fullest capacity due to issues in the supply chain and unfair competition from the imported canned fish products. We request the government to carefully consider the production capacity and stock of imports to the country prior to allowing unwanted imports. This will encourage the local producers and in turn will enable the country to save valuable foreign exchange,” Secretary Canned Fish Manufactures Association Kamal Addara Arachchi said.

As one of the development indicators being the GDP growth, import will not support this growth and we need to promote local industries. Sri Lanka which has a sea area of 10 times more than Thailand could not reach the level of that country with regard to canned fish exports.

Therefore, the country has the potential, capacity and capability to become a leading player in this market as Sri Lanka is surrounded by sea and there are plenty of fish available right throughout the year, he said.

“Our canned fish is fresh, safe and of high quality. When there is a bumper harvest, we need to preserve fish and canned fish is the ideal solution. However, the local canned fish industry is not given the required encouragement to fuel the growth and for further expansion.

This industry also supports the fishing industry and any improvement in the canned fish industry is positively impact the country’s fishing industry, he said.

There are 600,000 fishing community in the country. For the canned fish production they had been paid Rs. 170 million for the purchase of linna fish and a kilo has fetched Rs. 175 during the past few months enabling them to earn a decent living.

The canned fish industry lacks proper infrastructure such as cold rooms to store excess harvest and this is a major drawback to progress in the future. The rupee depreciation is impacting both positively and negatively and hence the industry prefers a stable currency to continue their business. It is important to have a proper mechanism to ensure market forces operate creating a level playing field for the sustainability of the industry.

“We urge the government to purchase locally produced canned fish for the government institutions and agencies to encourage the local industrialists and also to re-introduce the import tax to previous level of Rs. 102. The limitation of imported canned fish will be an added bonus to the local manufactures. It is necessary to formulate a five year plan to develop the industry and create a mindset to promote local products over imports,” he said.