Brackish water shrimp farming has been the most lucrative commercial aquaculture activity in Sri Lanka since it started in the mid-1980s.
Although the industry initially emerged in the Eastern Province (Batticaloa District), it collapsed due to civil disturbances in the area. Subsequently, the industry saw a revival in North Western Province (NWP) during the 1980s resulting in a rapid growth in both farm extent and foreign exchange earnings.
As a result, North Western coastal belt became the hub of the shrimp farming industry in Sri Lanka.
By the end of 1999, an estimated total of 1,300 prawn farms covering an area of 4,500ha and 80 hatcheries with an annual capacity of 750 million post larvae had developed in the area.
The industry recorded its peak economic performances in 2000 by earning US$ 69.4 million worth of foreign exchange for the total exported volume of 4,855 MT. Sri Lankan exporters have enjoyed a good market for their product over the past. Japan, US and EU countries are the most important markets for Sri Lankan shrimps.
The National aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka (NAQDA) is the main Government organisation responsible for development of inland fisheries and aquaculture in Sri Lanka.
It is anticipated that the revival of shrimp farming in Vakarai would support coastal community in the area as an alternative livelihood especially for the tsunami and war-affected people.
It has prepared a zonal plan for the Batticaloa District. Under that, a project is to be implemented for operating shrimp farm complex on the basis of cluster farming system.
It is funded by International Fund for agricultural Development (IFAD). The pilot project at Vakarai involves 27 outgrower farmers. King Aqua Services Ltd. is the investor. This pilot project proposed to have 30 ponds where three ponds will maintain by the investor and 27 will be maintained by the outgrowers.
The outgrowers were identified by NAQDA with the Assistance of Divisional Secretary in the area. Selected outgrowers has to establish and operate shrimp farming on the basis of cluster system where the cluster farming system in shrimp aquaculture is one of the most sustainable method being practiced in other countries to avoid the risk of disease outbreaks and also to increase productivity of the farming system.
For the construction of each pond, with an area of 1.3 acres, it may cost around Rs. 0.3 million.
It was realistic that tsunami affected people cannot bear such a cost. Bank of Ceylon as the nation’s leading bank gave the helping hand for them to establish such ponds. They will give finance for the outgrowers under a special loan scheme from Bank of Ceylon.
This loan scheme was initiated to continue financing in order to improve food security and reduce poverty especially in rural areas by promoting market, driven and sustainable management of inland fisheries and aqua culture through resource development and quality improvement. Maximum repayment period of the loan is of two years. Four equal instalments are set for the repayment of the facility.
A press conference was held last week at BOC Head Office to give information regarding the project. BOC Product and Development Banking Deputy General Manager Senarath Bandara, Assistant General Manager W.A.C. Tissera, BOC Eastern Province AGM K.P. Anandanadeshan, Area Manager (Batticaloa) M.J. Prabaharan, Chairman NAQDA Jayantha Chandrasoma, Director General of NAQDA Nimal Chandraratne, National Coordinator of IFAD P. Prathapasinghe and Investor of the project S. Thayabaran were present at the program.
Few outgrowers were offered this special facility at the occasion to mark the launch of this special loan scheme.