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* U.S. government study identifies aquaculture opportunities in Eastern Sri Lanka
Fri, Mar 26, 2010, 08:51 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 26, Colombo: A United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded study report has identified investment opportunities in the aquaculture sector in the Eastern Province.

According to a press release issued by the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, aquaculture, or fish farming, has the potential for significant growth in the East given the availability of suitable land and a strong export demand for fish and seafood.

This report also identifies aquaculture products that are most suitable for export and obstacles that must be overcome to encourage investment and development by the private sector. There is a high potential to create new jobs in the East, while using environmentally-friendly techniques through growth in aquaculture.

Products such as cage-raised sea bass, tilapia grown in traditional ponds, and mud crabs are selling profitably in urban markets in Sri Lanka. These products also have the potential for export to overseas markets. There is strong demand in Europe and Asia for sea bass and buyers from the Persian Gulf are already visiting Sri Lanka looking to place large orders for tilapia a food that is popular with foreign construction workers.

However, succeeding in the export market will require that Sri Lankan entrepreneurs -- fish farmers, transporters, and exporters -- work together to meet stringent requirements for proper cultivation, harvesting, processing, handling and transport. To sell in foreign markets, fish and fish products must meet exacting standards from harvest to the point of delivery to the consumer.

The study also finds that the Eastern Province offers investors a larger choice of suitable sites for aquaculture activities. There is an abundance of lagoons, marshes, mud flats and other saline areas relatively free of population and urban development. Aquaculture activities in these areas can be developed to create employment opportunities that complement, not compete with, existing agriculture or maritime fishing. Proper aquaculture practices will create additional support for protecting the environment and fertility of these coastal habitats.

Prawn and shrimp farming were at one time thriving businesses in Sri Lanka. However, they were decimated by diseases and viruses that nearly wiped out the entire shrimp culture industry. The report encourages the use of new pathogen-free shrimp, but recommends that investors consider alternatives, such as tilapia and milkfish, that are easier to raise and less vulnerable to disease. Shrimp and prawn farms that were abandoned during the civil war can now be rehabilitated relatively easily and provide new employment and income generating opportunities.

The aquaculture study is one of seven assessments funded by USAID/Sri Lanka, the development agency of the U.S. Embassy, through its project called Connecting Regional Economies (CORE) project. This project connects producers in the Eastern Province, Uva Province and North Central Province to urban markets and export gateways in and around Colombo and the western coast.

The complete report is available at www.core.lk

(This is a USAID press release.)


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