Sea cucumber farming is slowly becoming popular in the northern part of Sri Lanka where over 600 fishermen are currently involved in the lucrative trade
Sea cucumber farming is slowly becoming popular in the northern part of Sri Lanka where over 600 fishermen are currently involved in the lucrative trade. Most of them are from the northern cities of Jaffna and Kilinochchi where a Chinese firm has set up a hatchery. Sea cucumber, highly popular in the Asia-Pacific region, is mostly used in Chinese cuisine. It is also used as traditional medicine. China, Singapore, Japan, Korea account for 95 percent of its total trade.
Fishermen in the region are already struggling from scarce marine resources, and often lock horns with Indian fishermen, who use banned bottom trawling in search of big fish in contested waters. Five years ago, when a joint Chinese venture, Gui Lan Hatchery, came to Jaffna’s coastal village of Ariyalai, many fishermen switched to it.
Furthermore, the prospect of steady and assured income attracted more people to the trade. People take one-month-old small sea cucumbers from the hatchery, which they grow in their usual fishing spots in the sea.
“There are investors for sea cucumber farming. Now the fisheries ministry also promotes sea cucumber farming through incentives,” N Dhivakaran, president of Jaffna District Sea Cucumber Association, was quoted as saying by The Economy Next.
“We sell a sea cucumber once it reaches 300 grams in weight,” Dhivakaran, who maintains a 10-acre farm near the Gui Lan hatchery in Ariyalai said.
“I started the farm with 40,000 small sea cucumbers and now the hatchery’s production is not enough. So I try to get additional sea cucumbers from other sea areas,” he said.
Sri Lanka mainly exports to Singapore and Hong Kong.
“We do not have the proper certification process to export them directly to China,” Dhivakaran said. And, there it goes through the certification process for export to China. “So we are losing some foreign exchange because we do not have the certification process,” he said.
India has traditionally enjoyed strong political and cultural support in the north and eastern part of the country. Over the last two decades, China has gained a substantial foothold in the island country. However, it has been relatively less successful in the country's north and east.
Over the last few years, China has made concentrated efforts to gain inroad in the Tamil-dominated north. Gui Lan Hatchery was Beijing’s first project in the North. Tamil leaders, who have strong cultural and religious ties with India, have recently expressed their concern over the growing Chinese presence in the region.
Unlike India, China doesn’t extend any support to Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority community for their political rights.