Cargo space threat to Sri Lankan fish exports

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A lack of space in cargo planes leaving Sri Lanka has led to a drop in international fish exports and has brought the fish export industry to a standstill.

According to the Asian Tribune, Sri Lanka's Association of Live Tropical Fish Exporters says it has lost over 75 million rupees worth of trade (about 415K) in the past month because there has been insufficient space to ship fish on international airlines.

It says that 25 ornamental fish exporters are unable to export fish because airlines have decided not to allocate cargo space for live fish exporters, which means that everyone involved in the tropical fish business, from collectors to divers and breeders is affected.

NegotationsSathyendra Wijayapura of the Association of Live Tropical Fish Exporters told the Asian Tribune that the lack of cargo space and lack of export earnings meant that the situation in the fish export business was pathetic.

Wijayapura told the Asian Tribune that talks with the Export Development Board had failed, and they now wanted to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksha to try and end the situation.

The tropical fish industry brings in millions of pounds to Sri Lanka and other south east Asian countries without the need for foreign investment.

Wijayapura told the Asian Tribune that the problem could not have arisen at a worse time and that exports stopped four weeks ago:

"Right now, this is peak season for ornamental fish varieties in foreign countries. They just finishing their winter and they buy lots of fish during these days. But this demand will decline after May.

"This is the first time we face this type of problem from airlines. Many of our members have off loaded shipments. Their products gone up to Dubai and came back to Sri Lanka, due to lack of cargo space in international airlines. However the local customs charge import duty for our own goods when it arrive to Katunayake air port. All our products perished due to this."

50,000 workersThe report says that around 50,000 people are employed in the tropical fish industry in Sri Lanka, with many of those working on the areas farms, which are famous for the commercial production of a number of popular varieties of aquarium fish.

Many of those employed in growing-on the young fishes for sale to the aquarium industry live in small villages and are not rich people.

Wijayapura told the Asian Tribune that the government must arrange for direct flights to major destinations and resolve the matter amicably.