Middle Man Reaps Benefit of Ornamental Fish Trading
By Eunice Ruth and Udara Madushanka
The Aquarium or ornamental fish Industry in Sri Lanka has been identified as a fast growing self employment sector within the country, when compared to other sectors. Previously, it was only a leisure time activity for the kids and the youngsters. However, now that the sector has grown and it is identified as a major exporter.
The number of people who make a living by breeding and raising ornamental fishes is increasing within the country, especially in the Gampaha District. Residents of Negombo, Mirigama, Divulapitiya, Katana and Attanagalla areas are engaging in this business activity. Due to the growing interest of this sector, the Government has paid attention towards and decided to establish an ‘Exotic fishing village’ within the country.
Iresh Kithsiri, a resident of Veyangoda who is engaging in breeding and selling aquarium fishes for more than ten years said he registered himself at the National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka for selling and breeding aquarium fishes. However, like all other sectors, he has faced so many adverse issues in continuing his business. He also said, breeding fishes was not an easy process and people who are engaging in the industry have to follow a long procedure to breed the fish properly.
He further added that they spend a lot to breed fish and are currently facing problems where they are unable to continue their business. “We breed Zebra fish, Fighters, Calf, Goldfish and some other ornamental fish types. We use cement tanks for breeding them and to protect the fishes. While breeding we should cover the top part of the tank with nets. We should provide needed food for the fishes on a daily basis and most importantly work with to provide oxygen to the fishes using electric motors.
We have to follow all these steps properly to breed fish and it’s an expensive process,” said Kithsiri. He pointed out that they sell their fish for a price of Rs 150 to the shopkeepers or other individuals, and they sell them for Rs 600. The middleman between me and the final buyer gets the benefit of our hard work, we don’t. He further said that, if the Government initiates a programme for all the ornamental fish growers to directly export them to the buyer without any intervention of middlemen, it will be great for both parties.
Deepika Sudarshini, a resident of Mirigama said that she also engages in breeding and selling ornamental fishes for the last five years. However, the expenses involved in the process are high and we are facing a big issue now in earning income through this ornamental fish business. A fish food packet was Rs 200 last year and currently, the price of a packet is Rs 360. The price of an oxygen cylinder, motor, filters and even the prices of fish tanks are increasing in an unexpected way, she added. We are suffering without getting a proper income by selling fishes.
Even though the price of raw materials to breed fish increases, the selling price of fishes does not increase and if this continues we cannot continue our business, she said. G. B. Vimalavathi, who lives in Pasyala District said that, earlier her son was the one who engaged in this business. However, due to the losses we faced, he started working in another place and currently, I’m the one who takes care of the fish, she added.
Even if we put in much effort to breed fishes, still selling them and earning an income has been identified as a major issue for all the ornamental fish sellers of the area. “My son transfers the fishes to the shops for a cheap price as we have no other options to continue our business. There are times where we sell a pair of fish at normal prices. If we have a stable market we would be able to continue this job without suffering,” said Vimalavathi.
Medium and small scale ornamental fish growers are the ones who are most affected by this problem. We request the Government to assist us by providing the necessary guidance and support to continue the business. Speaking to the Assistant Director of National Aquaculture Development Authority (NAQDA) of Sri Lanka, W.C. Jayaweera, in this regard, noted that before following any other processes and breeding fishes, the ornamental fish growers should register themselves at NAQDA and they should have a licence to start or continue their businesses.
We cannot directly compensate anyone for losses. He said that, we provide all kinds of support and guidance to the licensed growers and we can help them to export their fishes in a proper systematic way which will help them to earn good income. He requested all the ornamental fish growers to get registered themselves first in order to get guidance from the Government.