- Welcomes commodity levy on canned fish imports
- Assures no increase in locally produced canned fish prices
- Says could export canned fish within 2 years with right govt. policy support
- Industry produces 1, 000 tins per day on average whereas nearly 200, 000 tins consumed daily
By Nishel Fernando
Encouraged by the recent move to re-impose special commodity levy on canned fish imports, Sri Lanka’s canned fish manufactures say that the country could commence exporting canned fish products within two years with the right backing of the government.
The Canned Fish Manufacturers Association of Sri Lanka welcomed the recent move by the government to impose a special commodity levy on canned fish imports to the country, although the Association lobbied to reinstate the previously imposed full levy on canned fish imports.
Despite the recent tax hike on canned fish imports, the Canned Fish Manufacturers Association of Sri Lanka President Shiran Fernando assured that local manufactures wouldn’t increase prices of canned fish for consumers.
The Association has already informed this to Sathosa and the Ministry of Fisheries in writing.
Fernando outlined that the benefit of the tax hike over imported canned fish products would ultimately benefit local fishermen.
“We can now pay a higher price for the fish we buy from local fishermen and we can also buy more local fish benefiting local fishermen,” he added.
He believes that by offering higher prices, the local fishermen would be more encouraged to increase their output and it would also attract newcomers to the industry, creating a boom.
Presently, the local fishing industry employs around 600,000 persons and supports livelihoods of 1.5 million people in the country.
He noted that higher prices would encourage more people to engage in fishing activities in particular in the East coast where the industry is still struggling to make a rebound after fishing activities were disrupted by the civil war.
At present, on average 1,000 tinned fish cans are manufactured daily among 5 canning plants working under capacity while the local consumption of canned fish remains around 200,000 cans per day.
However, Fernando was optimistic that Sri Lanka not only could become self sufficient in canned fish production, but also potentially export canned fish products, possibly within two years, If the government promotes the local canned fish industry.
He pointed out that the government could promote the industry by setting up the much-needed cold storage facilities in key fishing villages across the country.
Meanwhile, Fernando noted that it would likely take several months for local canned fish manufactures to benefit from the taxes on imports as importers have stocked up canned fish products for several months.
Sri Lanka’s current import bill on canned fish products amounts to around US$ 65 million per annum.
The Association also pointed at numerous health benefits that could be gained by consuming locally manufactured canned fish.
According to health statistics, around 33 percent of the country’s population suffer from Anemia, leading to several serious conditions including, dizziness, organ failure, dementia, irritability, tiredness, headache, difficulty in focusing and chest pains.
Fernando noted that this was mainly due to the low consumption of protein despite having more than sufficient sources of protein around the island.
He opined that by consuming locally produced canned fish the masses could absorb these proteins.
As local producers complete the canning process of fish caught within three days maintaining the freshness and nutritious value of fish in contrast to the imported canned fish products, which remain in refrigerators for months or even for years before canning, he emphasised that nutrients such as Omega 3 and other fish oils can be only found in fresh fish canned locally.
Speaking on the potential of the local canned fish industry, he outlined that while Sri Lanka does not produce even the canned fish to feed its 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, becoming the fourth largest-tuna canned fish exporter in the world.