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Sri Lankan Tuna Exports Plunge Sri Lanka, December 21, 12

“Sri Lanka’s seafood export industry has undergone a 30% down-turn this year. The major product exported by Sri Lanka is Tuna which is considered a luxury product fetching a very high price in today’s export market. The main reason is the economic crisis faced by the EU, USA and Japan, the main purchasers of seafood exported by Sri Lanka. Non-extension of GSP+ facilities have also contributed to the fall out of this Industry. Flooding of targeted markets with cheaper substitutes from Japan can also be cited as a reason, Sea food Exporters Association of Sri Lanka, President, Roshan Fernando told Ceylon FT.

“The Ministry of Fisheries has been supportive of the seafood export industry by providing concessions to fishermen and by assisting the process of obtaining international certifications which are highly tested in the export of Tuna. Further the government has stated that the revenue earned by fishermen is income tax free,” explained Roshan.

“At the moment the main focus of exporters of Tuna is to carry out value addition processes with a view to obtaining the best prices in the export market and also gain the maximum out of the current production level.

“The main hindrance to venturing into niche markets is the large scale initial capital requirement. Even the small scale production plant needs an investment of about Rs 200 million. This is due to the specific facilities that should be provided to production plants to accomplish international export standards,” he added.

“If the Sri Lanka’s Tuna production and processing capacity can be increased then the total cost can be brought down with economies of scale. So the solution suggested would be capital infusion to increase production facilities,” Roshan concluded.

Europe accounts for 70% of Sri Lanka’s seafood exports. Sri Lanka is also the market leader in the export of yellowfin tuna to the EU enjoying 40% of market share. This is due to the high quality of fish products exported to the European consumers and the compliance of food processing with standards set out by the EU.

The fisheries sector today has become a key source of livelihood to the people of the North and East. Seafood exports is a relatively small scale industry to the Sri Lankan economy but one that employs over one million people directly or indirectly in the fisheries sector. And it is also a sector which has scope for expansion with further contribution from both the government and private sector.