The new ice plant in Mullaitivu improves market penetration of local fishermen

11 May 2012

imageLoading fish for distribution

Mr. Arunraj, a 40 year old father of three, was displaced four times with his family since the 90’s and therefore, was forced into subsistence livelihoods and low income generating activities. With fishing being his main source of obtaining income,  Mr. Arunraj struggled to restart his fishing activities soon after resettlement in 2010. He says, “I faced many challenges in marketing the fish. Due to lack of proper storage, more than 20% of the fish I caught were graded poorly and received low prices. As a result, the income from fishing was not adequate to take care of my family. I had to undertake casual labour work or borrow money to make ends meet”.

Through an early recovery needs assessment, UNDP identified the lack of chilling and storage facilities as a main cause for low prices received by local fishermen. To increase the income of nearly 7,000 fishermen in the Mullaitivu District, the Fisheries Cooperative Societies’ Union (FCSU) was assisted to establish a much needed ice plant in the area. The ice plant, located in Kallapadu in the Mullaitivu District, with the capacity of 10 tons of ice per day allows fishermen to store 12,000 kg of fish per day, thus ensuring their catch remains fresh for a longer period of time and strengthening their bargaining power to negotiate for better prices with buyers. Funded by the European Union, the ice plant was constructed under the Community Recovery Project of UNDP’s Transition Recovery Programme (TRP).

Mr. Anuraj was one of the many fishermen who benefited from the ice plant construction. He says, “I have no problem in storing my catch now. Ice is available throughout the day, even in the night hours. I am not only fishing but also involved in transportation of fish to other Districts using the ice. The increase in income has helped me to contribute towards the education and health care expenditures of my family”.

The District Secretariat and Department of Fisheries were involved in the planning of the ice plant. Mr A Patthinathan, the former GA of Mullaitivu, said, “The establishment of this ice plant is the first and the foremost step for the resettled people to develop the fishing industry in Mullaitivu’. He went on to add that these types of infrastructure facilities would ensure livelihoods of the conflict affected people are recovered and sustained.

The ice plant is managed by FCSU as part of their broader mandate of improving the processing and marketing capacities of local fishermen in the district. Mr K Shivalingam, General Manager of FCSU, says, “The market conditions in the post-war context are changing rapidly. The ice plant not only generates a net profit of Rs 6,000 a day, it has enabled us (FCSU) to penetrate into the local and national markets.   Previously we were only able to supply 2 cooler trucks of 5-7 tones of fish on a daily basis. Now FCSU’s supply has increased to 4 cooler trucks of 10-12 tones of fish.  With FCSU being able to offer its members inputs such as ice, we have seen an increase in membership with 3 new cooperative societies joining the FCSU bringing an additional 960 fishermen into the network”.

FCSU plans to invest in additional cooler trucks and dry fish making in the future in order to further improve the marketing opportunities for its member cooperatives and create employment opportunities for women. In support of these plans, UNDP has commissioned a market analysis relating to the FCSU in Mullaitivu with the support of CIDA and will be supporting FCSU to develop a business plan and strengthen their management and production capacities in order to enter into high-value markets on fair and equitable terms.