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Sunday, 10 June 2012

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Seashell processing underway in Kinniya



Dried seashells at the plant premises.

A site

The Kinniya Divisional Secretariat Division, in the Trincomalee district is known for its identical resources such as fish and seashells. A large number of people are engaged in the fisheries and seashell processing industry.

The low income people in this area collect seashells earn their daily living. The people who are engaged in this industry earn sufficient income. A 50-pack of seashells is Rs. 100. A person earns more than Rs. 1,500 a day. The seashell processing industry provides indirect employment to a large number of people in Kinniya and its surroundings.

The Kinniya Bridge plays a pivotal role in bridging the territorial gap and improving the economy of the region. The transport of raw material other products are taking place smoothly.

The seashell processing industry attracts a large number of industry as it is a viable business.

A.G.M. Najaath, Managing Director, Crescent Farm Tec, engaged in the seashell processing industry in Kinniya said that during 1996 he started the seashell processing industry with the support of a person from Hambantota. In the earlier days only a few were involved in this industry. By the lapse of time it has become a common industry in the region.

Najaath said that in the initial days only two persons were operating seashell grinding plants. The number of plants increased with the advent of new investors. Day by day a considerable number of investors emerge in this industry. Now it has become a threat to the environment.

"The Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Ministry has granted permission to run this industry", Najaath said.

Earlier the seashell processors were granted permission to transport 3,000 packs of seashell per month, each with 50 kilos. With the advent of new investors the Fisheries Ministry limited the permission to 3,000 packs seashell for three months. Now they decreased it to 1,200 packs. No one can transport seashells above this limit.

"Now the relevant authorities have limited the permission to ten persons only to protect the environment" Najaath said.

The Government has granted permission to grind only 2,000 packs of seashells per month", Najaath said.

Najaath has 33 seashell grinding plants in Kinniya. Each has the capacity to grind from 30 to 50 packs of seashell per day. Depending on the availability of seashells this amount may differ.

Besides certain days there will be no work in the plant. The people work in the plant from 15 to 20 days per month. Seashell is brought to the grinding plant from Thambalagamuwa bay. There are enough shell deposits in the bay.

There is a mangrove forest in the Thambalagamuwa bay. Mangrove plants facilitate the snail breeding in the bay, according to Najaath.

Najaath said that snail breeding takes place in the sunny days. During the rainy season as the fresh water mix with salt water snails perish. The dead snails become seashells. Due to under water current these shells are pulled and remain in the gaps of mangrove plants, by the lapse of time they turn into deposits.

A worker operating the grinding machine.

Grinded materials

Najaath has given employment to more than 250 persons directly and indirectly in his plant. Altogether 8 persons work in a grinding plant including the persons who go to collect seashell.

Najaath said that even though collecting seashells is a difficult job, it is lucrative business to the people in the area.

One can collect nearly 30 packs of seashells per day. Two persons will be engaged in the seashell collecting process. Each person will earn over Rs. 1,800 per day.

As the seashell processing is a small industry, the deployment of giant machineries in this industry will not be beneficial.

The labour problems and low price for the products are other issues faced by this industry, Najaath pointed out.

As these resources are limited, the continuous collection will endanger these resources. If these resources want to be protected additional permission should not be granted to start seashell processing centres. Enough room must be left to new snail breedings.

"NARA has given us a maximum limit to the seashell processors. They can't exceed that limit of 20,000 packs of shells per month. The Government has made this restriction to protect the natural resources. Exceeding this limit will cause severe environmental problems by the lapse of time", Najaath said.

These resources should be protected for the next generation. Or else this industry will have a natural death. It will be a great loss to the country as well as the industrialists in the field, he said.

If we consumed all these resources we will happen to import dicalcium phosphate instead of seashell. One kilo is Rs. 160 in the market.

A huge amount of money should have to be spent on the imports of dicalcium phosphate. Maximum effort should be taken to protect this resource.

Granting additional permissions to start seashell grinding plants will further worsen the situation. The existing plants are enough to cater to the local demand.

Najaath is marketing his products in the Coconut Triangle Zones, Kandy, Avissavella, Colombo and Kalutara district. He gives prominence to the Coconut Triangle Zone as there is a large number of Poultry farms.

"This industry cannot be operated on a large scale. Moving little by little will help improve this industry. Experience is the only asset to uplift this industry", Najaath said.

Naajath said that they have formed a society comprising 40 seashell grinding plant operators to protect their benefits and privileges.

This society is working round the clock to catch a permanent market place for their products. This society will hold progressive review meetings once every month. Depending on the necessity the society will summon special meetings on short notice.

The responsible officers should come forward to solve the transport problems of seashell processors in the area, Najaath said.

Sahithuraipillai, a fisherman in Nandukkuda said that the people in this area collect seashell on behalf of seashell grinding plants. For more than ten years they are doing this job. Nearly 50 in Nandukkuda are doing this business. They earn more than Rs. 2,000 per day. Environmental problems also arose because of this activity. Earlier, the fishermen in the area raised alarm that continuous collecting of seashells will affect the fisheries industry as the fish breeding will reduce. Certain faction cautioned that epidemic will spread in this area while polluting the environment.

He said that in the earlier days they could collect shells in the shallow waters. Now seashells are available below from five feet to six feet depth. Earlier days a large number of boats went to collect shells. Now it has declined to below 150.

Collecting seashells has become very difficult. If this activity continued the valuable resource will end in due course.

Ishak, a worker at the shell processing centre, said that, crushing the shells is not an easy job, anyhow it is lucrative. Ishak has the ability to process nearly 70 bags of shell. He receives Rs. 30 to crush a 50 kilo seashell bag.

Raikan who is working in a seashell processing centre, said that he has the ability to process 80 packs of seashell per day. He earns more than Rs. 2,400 per day.Only the dried seashells will be used to process. The wet shells will be dried for one day, the next day it will be used to process.

He said that each person will bring 30 to 35 packs of seashells to the plant.

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