Agri Business

Kerala fisherfolk hooked on new model of fish sales

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on April 27, 2020

The government had introduced the new way as a temporary measure by entrusting harbour management societies to monitor fish sales   -  THE HINDU

However, experts caution against doing away with traditional auction method

Kerala government’s newly-introduced system to sell fish during the lockdown period — as against the traditional auction method — seems to be gaining popularity among fisherfolk in fetching better returns.

The government had introduced the new way as a temporary measure by entrusting harbour management societies to monitor fish sales. The system, which avoided middlemen, is reported to have boosted the earnings of the fishing community.

Fisheries department officials admitted that the arrangement is benefiting the community in ensuring a single price for the catch throughout the day. Earlier, the catch from boats returning late was sold at half the price of the first boat. However, in the new structure, both first and last boats reaching the shore will get the same price for the catch.

The prices of the catch have been fixed based on the average price of each variety during the last seven days. The department is thinking of continuing with the new system, it is learnt.

It may be recalled that there have been repeated requests from boat owners and the fishing community to stop the involvement of middlemen in the sale of fish.

Charles George, general secretary of Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi (TUCI), said the new initiatives are providing a fair price for the catch. However, more discussions are needed to continue with the reforms, with the involvement of all stakeholders. The difference in the landing cost of fish and its retail prices have been highlighted by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute. He also urged the government to initiate measures for direct supply to consumers’ doorstep from the landing centres, as practised in several countries.

There is a need to fix procurement and floor prices and the government should set up procurement centres, cold storages in harbours and landing centres. The unsold quantities should be procured by Matsyafed to sell to companies that make ready-to-cook, ready-to-eat products. The online sale of fish, like Uber Eats model, should be encouraged by entrusting the youth in the community with vehicles and chill boxes, he added.

Role of auctions

However, experts in the fisheries sector opine that auctions play a major role in determining fish prices, ensuring better marketing for the catch, and creating demand. The supply pattern in the business has been facilitated and controlled by auction agents. Most of the fishers, including the traditional community, have an understanding with auctioneers and their credits are linked with the marketing of the catch.

It is to be noted that even during the demonetisation period, the fishing in Kerala continued unabated, because of the involvement of auctioneers.

According to them, fixing a procurement price would not be a difficult task in the event of marginal landings where the demand is catered by the traditional sector with a share of less than 7-8 per cent. But during large-scale landings generated by the motorised and mechanised sector, the price realisation would be difficult. It is the quality, quantity and place of catch, size and method of catch that determines the prices.

The government’s intervention in fixing a procurement price, floor price or support price is a welcome move if it provides measures such as enabling e-auction across the landing centres. This would assure the quality of fish, quantity, place of origin, size differentials, so that more buyers would be involved virtually and could participate and help the auction process a better price realisation, experts added.

Published on April 27, 2020

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