Quasi-governmental organisation churns out profits in the net and organic fertilizer units

The windswept shores of the Periyar where it meets the Arabian Sea at Azhikode is a charming place from where numerous Chinese fishing nets stretch their arms into the waters. Behind these fishing nets is a weary-looking building, which does not come anywhere close to its claim of being a profit-making organic fertilizer unit, owned by Kerala State Cooperative Federation for Fisheries Development (Matsyafed).

With its 35-tonne-per-day capacity, the fish-based organic fertilizer unit has written a story vastly different from other quasi-governmental units and is among the 15 commercial enterprises run by the fisheries cooperative.

Matsyafed’s net-making unit in Kochi has also found a niche for itself. Tucked away in a corner of the city behind the High Court of Kerala building, the unit daily churns out 600 tonnes of high quality fishing nets of varying mesh sizes as well as nets for sports and agricultural use.

“Matsyafed sets the quality standard in the net market,” said an official of the apex fisheries cooperative, pointing out the reason why the unit, established in 1969, has survived well in a market characterised by stiff competition among a large number of players.

Quality is also the key reason behind the success of the fertiliser unit. It is also lean and mean when it comes to raising productivity. The unit has four permanent workers, a manager and an accountant. “The unit works like a private sector company where expenses are minimised to boost profits,” said a Matsyafed official, highlighting the unit’s profit of Rs. 1.47 crore during the last financial year.

The numbers may seem paltry before the earnings recorded by other quasi-governmental units. The difference, however, lies in the fact that the Azhikode unit of Matsyafed involved only a measly investment of Rs. 2.5 lakh in two phases, starting 2008.

The equipment here comprises three pulverisers, said the official, pointing to the grimy machines that stand in a corner of a dimly lit hall, where men are busy moving sacks of Nutrifish, the brand of organic fertilizer from Matsyafed.

The product, comprising fish waste neem and castor cakes, fly ash and prawn shells, is rich in micro organisms and micronutrients, claimed the official.

The fertilizer unit had its origins in the Indo-Norwegian fisheries under which was established the fish meal and oil plant, later taken over by Matsyafed in the late 1980s.

Matsyafed Chairman V. Dinakaran said the success of the net unit in Kochi prompted the management to go in for two more units, one already commissioned in two shifts in Kannur; and the other, in Thiruvananthapuram. Foundation for the Thiruvananthapuram unit, involving an investment of approximately Rs. 30 crore, will be laid in October.

The Kochi unit logged a profit of Rs. 1.82 crore during the last financial year despite stiff competition and volatile oil prices. The unit has been making a profit over the last five years and directly employs 140 people and indirectly provides employment to about 500 people in the fishing villages, where nets are assembled.

Both the net and the fertilizer units have niche markets, where customers are confident of Matsyafed products. For example, Coconut Development Board places most of its orders for its various schemes with the fisheries cooperative just as the State’s traditional fishermen rely mostly on the cooperative for their net requirements. Coconut board bought around 9,000 tonnes of fertilizer from the Azhikode unit while the net-making unit here rules the market in Kerala with about 40 per cent share in the traditional fishing sector.

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