Supplying fish to Colombo Port | Spotlight on a fishy deal
3 years ago
By Maheesha Mudugamuwa
Questions have been raised over a tender awarded by the Ceylon Fisheries Corporation (CFC) to supply seafood (prawns, cuttlefish, koppara, and thalapath) to the Colombo Port, as the CFC’s supplier sold fish at exorbitant rates. Accordingly, it was revealed that the supplier earned a profit of around Rs. 700 per kg of prawns and cuttlefish, which was then sold to the port for its employees’ food at double the local market prices. It was alleged that the prawns and cuttlefish were supplied to the port under the guise of a fish supply tender given to the CFC. It is also revealed that even though the price of prawns and cuttlefish in the local market was around Rs. 650-700 per kg, it had been sold to the port at around Rs. 1,500. Nevertheless, the CFC purchased the seafood at a rate of around Rs. 1,400 per kg. According to a credit purchase memo issued on 10 July 2020, seen by The Sunday Morning, a total of 302 kg of prawns (jumbo) were sold to the CFC at a rate of Rs. 1,480 per kg, and the CFC had paid a total of Rs. 446,960. As per the fish price list at the Peliyagoda Fish Market on 11 June, a kg of prawns (jumbo) was sold at Rs. 1,050. Similarly, as per another credit purchase memo, the CFC purchased a total of 190 kg of cuttlefish (clean) at a price of Rs. 1,400, and it had paid a total of Rs. 266,000. Furthermore, a memo issued on 1 June stated that the CFC had purchased a total of 52 kg of koppara at a rate of Rs. 650 per kg by spending Rs. 33,800, and 2,002 kg of thalapath at Rs. 600 per kg by spending Rs. 1,201,200 on 29 April. On 14 August, another memo had been issued for the purchase of 3,007 kg of koppara at Rs. 700 per kg, thereby spending Rs. 2,104,900.
However, allegations were raised on spending millions of rupees to purchase seafood from a third party; allowing the supplier to earn massive profits by selling seafood to the CFC at a higher rate than that of the local market, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown, where the market prices of fish dropped drastically. When contacted by The Sunday Morning, CFC Chairman Maj. Gen. (Retd.) S.W.L. Daulagala said he had already requested the Fisheries Ministry to probe the allegation levelled against the fish supply tender. When asked about the process of awarding a tender to supply fish, the CFC Chairman explained that those who could supply fish at a rate given by the corporation would be given the opportunity to supply them with seafood. Asked whether the CFC had incurred any loss as a result of their suppliers selling seafood to them at higher rates, the Chairman noted that unless an investigation is conducted, an opinion on whether the CFC had incurred any loss or not couldn’t be made. Fishermen struggling during Covid During the coronavirus lockdown, multi-day fishing boat owners around the country were struggling to sell their catch amid the tough measures implemented by the Government to control the spread of the coronavirus. According to Trade Union of Owners of Multi-day Trawlers (MDT) Assistant Secretary Tyronne Mendis, before the New Year, a kg of kelawalla was sold for Rs. 270 – this was below the market price, which was Rs. 800-900 per kg earlier. He noted that they had requested the CFC to buy the catch during that period. Furthermore, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government allocated Rs. 600 million for the early purchase of the fish harvest to prevent any inconvenience faced by both fishermen and the public. The CFC, established in 1967, hasn’t made profits over a period of nearly five decades, and it was also proposed to be closed down a few years ago. Under former Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, a voluntary retirement scheme was implemented to reduce the number of excess employees at the CFC.