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Sri Lankan company leading the way in fish farming
Thu, 13 Nov 2008 11:09

Shrimp from Nigeria has good potential in the international market.

Sulalanka, a Sri Lankan company is at the forefront of aquaculture in Nigeria. The industry is still in its baby boots but holds great potential. Jaco Maritz spoke to Upali Karunaratna CEO of Sulalanka Nigeria Ltd.

Give us an overview of your business in Nigeria?

Sulalanka is a consultancy and an active player in aquaculture and seafood production and trading activities. We have experience in the field since 1987 when we started the industry in Hong Kong and then had expanded activities to many countries all over the world.

Before we established the company in Nigeria we studied the local industry. Our findings revealed that seafood production in Nigeria was mainly limited to shrimp trawler operations and some other fish species as by-products of trawler operations. We found that there is not much interest in developing the industry to increase the number of products available. For example, very little effort is being made to develop the catching of fish with good value in the export market such as shark meat and fins, tuna, swordfish, lobsters, etc. The same applies for aquaculture. Fish farming in Nigeria is basically limited to catfish farming. We see very limited efforts to develop other fresh water fish species or shellfish.

Our work is therefore to establish the above mentioned areas in the industry for the local and export markets. We introduced two businesses: inland shrimp farming together with fish as a by-product and the harvesting of marketable marine fish species such as swordfish, tuna, blue crabs and shark. Both of these two projects are being developed slowly but steadily.

Why did you specifically decide to invest in the Nigerian market?

Africa has many advantages over others when it comes to global sales. African products can enter many of the strongest markets in the globe without being subjected to any import tariffs. Products have fast and easy access to major European and US markets. This, amongst others is one of the major reasons why we decided on Nigeria. The dynamic changes that are happening in the Nigeria's economy and society also attracted us to the country.

There has been widespread opposition in Nigeria to the environmental effects of shrimp farming. How is Sulalanka addressing this issue?

We should be able to identify the environmental hazards and have solutions for them. The shrimp industry has been facing not only environmental but also social effects until the recent past. Like every industry we have identified them and have been able to develop solutions to face such challenges. We have technology that can help farmers to farm shrimp without having any impact on the environment. This system is rather expensive but still much more profitable than the rest.

How are local Nigerians involved in your projects?

We have several individuals and corporate clients as shrimp farmers subscribed to the Aquaculture Shrimp Programme introduced by Sulalanka. They represent many different levels of society in Nigeria and also several states namely Kwara, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers. Under the scheme Nigerian shrimp farmers will be trained and assisted to set-up their farms and their products will be bought when the shrimp is matured. These local prospective shrimp farmers cover an area of over 3 500 hectares and will be able to generate over 500 000 employment opportunities with an estimated revenue of over US$200 million, which will benefit the local economies and social livelihood.

In what direction is Nigeria’s aquaculture industry heading?

I believe it is heading the right direction. With a population of over 140 million and with all the necessary resources it cannot deviate from the right path. But the country needs a lot of input from international industry players and the local players need international exposure. The aquaculture industry is somehow falling into the right track at the moment.

What investment opportunities are there in Nigeria for investors interested in aquaculture?

As I mentioned above, the country has all the necessary resources to develop aquaculture and opportunities are very widely available in areas such as cage culture and raceways, in addition to earthen and artificial pond aquaculture. Nigeria has opportunities in fresh and marine water species breeding with either inland based or water based techniques covering species such as eel, sea bass, grouper, Nile perch, carp, croker, mud crabs, tilapia, turtle and milk fish. This breeding can be done on a very small family scale to large corporate scale and the local market is very strong and open as the local food requirements are one the highest in the African continent. Therefore, investment opportunities are very well secured from production to marketing without any disturbances from external sources such as international trading and market fluctuations due to the stable local characteristics.