Urge govt. to consider including canned fish in temporarily banned list of imported goods into country
Despite the country reaching self-sufficiency in canned fish production, the local canned fish manufacturers allege that the country’s largest modern retail chain, state-owned Lanka Sathosa, is attempting to purchase imported canned fish.
On August 29, Lanka Sathosa floated a tender notice to purchase 425-gram, 75,000 tinned fish cans exclusively from importers without providing an opportunity for local canned fish manufacturers to bid.
According to the Canned Fish Manufacturers Association of Sri Lanka (CFAASL), the production capacity of the local canned fish industry has now reached 300,000 cans per day, which is above the daily national requirement of 285,000 cans per day.
Although the association had informed that its members were willing to provide a 425-gram can to Lanka Sathosa at a price of Rs.620 per can, Lanka Sathosa went ahead with the tender. According to the government sources, one importer submitted a bid to provide Lanka Sathosa with 75,000 tinned fish cans, at Rs.700 per can, at the closure of the tender on August 30.
However, Lanka Sathosa temporarily halted the tender award, amid the concerns raised by the industry and its employees. The local canned fish industry pointed out that a large number of imported canned fish tins entered the local market over the past couple of months.
According to media reports, over 30 containers of canned fish imported by 30 unregistered companies, worth over US $ 90 million, were released to the market unmonitored, after remaining stuck at the Colombo Port for months.
In this backdrop, the local canned fish producers have been forced to cut down their production, as they are unable to clear their existing stocks with a flood of imported cheap canned fish reaching the market without proper quality checks. Although the local canned fish industry usually purchases around 100,000 kilograms of Pacific Mackerel fish, which is locally known as Linna, from the local fishermen, it is now forced to cut down purchases, due to the imports. CFAASL President Shiran Fernando hence urged the government to step in to protect the local canned fish industry from unfair competition, without endangering the livelihoods of many.
Accordingly, he proposed the government to consider including canned fish in the temporarily banned list of imported goods into the country or to link to the special commodity levy imposed on canned fish imports with the US dollar rate. With the sharp depreciation of the rupee, he pointed out that the current levy on imported canned fish has become minuscule. With high input costs, Fernando acknowledged that canned fish has also become unaffordable for a considerable portion of the population that consumes it as their main source of protein.
Therefore, he proposes the government to purchase canned fish from the local producers through state entities such as Lanka Sathosa and to make them available to low-income families at a subsidised price.
While the imported canned fish could be cheaper, he also questioned the nutritional value of such imported canned fish products, in particular as a source of Omega 3 and other fish oils. “We complete the canning process of fish caught within 24 hours, maintaining the freshness and nutritional value of fish, in contrast to the imported canned fish products, which remain in refrigerators and cold rooms for months or even for years before canning,” he noted.