Monday, July 29, 2013

The fisheries sector in Sri Lanka plays an indispensable role in the economy of country contributing around 1.2% to the GDP. Fish products are a vital source of animal protein, providing around 70% of the animal protein consumed in the country. Direct and indirect employment is also provided to around 650,000 people and is directly linked with the lives of approximately 50% of the population who resides in the coastal belt. Fisheries sector contribution to the total export earnings of the country is around 2.5%. The fisheries sector has a significant scope for increasing the contribution to the national economy, exploiting the huge untapped potential. Sri Lanka‘s marine fisheries resource base has a total extent of 538500 km2 and is rich in species diversity. The contribution of the marine fisheries (coastal and deep sea) segment to the fisheries sector is around 86%. The coastal fish production contributes to more than half a percent (53%) of the total fish production, while off shore/deep Sea fishery contribution is around 33%. The share of fresh water fishery is around 14%. Fish constitutes a major source of proteins in the diet of the people in many developing countries, including Sri Lanka. The poor handling and storage facilities allowing rapid post-harvest deterioration limit the availability of fish. Traditionally, salting and sun-drying of fish has been developed to reduce the post-harvest deterioration and provide a microbiological stable product, at a reasonable cost. However, the keeping qualities of salted, dried fish are reduced by the colonization of salt tolerant microorganisms under humid tropical climatic conditions.

Dried fish

Dried fish is considered as the poor man's protein because; it is the main source of animal protein of the households in low-income groups, especially the people living in areas other than the coastal belt. Main dried fish species produced in Sri Lanka, are Katta, Balaya, Keeramin, Seer, and Maduwa. Trincomalee, Mannar, Kalpitiya, Matara, Jaffna are the main districts which are produced marine dried fish. Dried fish industry is mainly carried out as cottage level industry. Traditional home scale technique is mainly performed for dried fish production by women as an extra source of income. Inland dried fish industry also has been developed in Anuradhapura, Pollonaruwa and Moneragala districts. 

By definition, dried fish is cured (salted) and sun-dried or artificially dried fresh or boiled fish. The traditional drying and salting method of preserving fish continues to be very popular today simply because it produces such great flavor, long shelf life and more expected quality attributes of consumers. For centuries salted fish was a basic food in Sri Lanka as it was less expensive than meat and other protein sources. Even today because of the simplicity of the salting process, the low cost of production and the ease with which it combines with other preservation methods, such as drying or smoking. Dried fish in Sri Lanka are produced by following the steps of catching, landing, splitting, washing, salting and sun drying. Packaging is not regularly practiced in Sri Lanka. But in super markets vacuum packaged and normal packaged dried fish types are available. Even though Sri Lanka is an island rich with fisheries resources, dried fish products are imported in large quantities since the total fish catch satisfies only 65% of the local demand dried fish is the largest processed fish that is imported to the country. About 70% of the dried fish in the local market is imported. Sprat is the most popular dried fish type in Sri Lanka and considerable quantity is produced within the country. Jaffna and Mannar are the main districts which are produced sprats priority. Sprats are produced by drying with or without salt. Sprats produced in Jaffna are called as ―Iyra in the Sri Lankan market. In addition to that Maldive dried fish is also belongs to dried fish family and it is processed by following cooking, drying and smoking respectively. Southern and Northern coastal areas produce higher quantity of maldive fish in Sri Lanka. It is also imported from Maldives Island. Artificial drying by modified solar dehydrators, oven drying can be used instead of sun drying is best way to achieve a better quality product. Sun drying is also can be done with good hygienically and advanced equipment for effective dried fish industry in Sri Lanka.

Although many advanced techniques are been used in all over the world, traditional convectional drying is practiced for processing of dried fish in Sri Lanka. Due to the less adequate knowledge and unhygienic processing practices the Sri Lankan dried fish industry cannot reach to its Excellency. While the cost of sun drying is low, there are significant losses due to spoilage, contamination by dust, and insect infestation, particularly when the fish are laid close to the ground. Quality losses can be occurred very rapidly after catching. These quality losses are influenced to consumers, fishermen, processors and traders. Use of spoilt fish and low grade raw materials is the main constraint associated with the quality and safety sector of Sri Lankan dried fish. Rejected fish is used for processing dried fish and they can be seen at the market in low price. Because of the low quality of them, several safety issues are arisen in the country. Due to the lack of researches and the weaknesses in extension services the naval techniques are flowed to the rural areas very slowly.

Many programmes are conducted by the Government and Non-government organizations for increasing the quality and safety of dried fish in Sri Lanka. Many standards, laws and regulations are established in the country, in order to make sure of the quality and safety. Protecting the consumers from the unsafe conditions and reducing the postharvest losses of fish are the main objectives of them. But these regulations are not controlled in the country regarding to the dried fish sector. The quality of the dried fish products distributed in our country should satisfy at least the requirements stipulated in SLS 643: 1984 or SLS 811: 1988, Sri Lanka Standard Specifications for Dried Fish and Maldive Fish respectively.
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