The multi-billion dollar marine fisheries business in the State is set to undergo considerable change with fishermen and buyers agreeing in principle to end the age-old system of bulk sale, based on rough calculations of the quantity landed, in favour of the more transparent method of quantifying the catch before a price is set.
The new system is expected to take effect from November 1, bringing curtains down on an era marked by charges and counter-charges of exploitation and losses.
Under the new system, the catch will be packed into standard boxes and price set for the boxes.
“It will be easy to fix the price of a small quantity after the buyers are able to scrutinise the quality of the catch,” said sources in the Fisheries Department.
They said both the parties were in agreement on the matter although it would be discussed in more detail by larger bodies representing the businesses. “It is a delicate matter and will be put up for the consideration of the Fisheries Ministry”, they added.
President of Vypeen-Fort Kochi Fish Merchants’ Association Anwar Mohammed said the new system would be of help to the sellers as they would be able to ascertain the quality of the fish being bought. Under the old system of bulk sale, some concession was extended to the buyers in lieu of the fact that they could not fully ascertain the quality.
Convenor of Kerala Fisheries Coordination Committee Charles George said the new system would help fishermen realise better price for their catch and that it would end the raucous relationship between the two sides.
The agreement on the new course of action has been reached through efforts by a committee appointed by the department, which was forced to mediate to end a standoff between buyers and sellers at the Kalamukku fish landing centre here. Fishermen went on a day’s strike early October demanding an end to what they described as exploitation by middlemen and fish buyers.
The fishermen-boat owners, most of them from the traditional sector, were angered by the demand from buyers that they be extended a 20 per cent reduction in the auction price of the catch, up from the previous level of 13 per cent.
The informal practice of offering a reduction in the auction price is called lelakkizhivu and involves fishermen willingly forgoing a percentage of the actual auction price.
However, early October saw the matter reaching a boiling point.
The practice of lelakkizhivu is not prevalent across the State though it is the set mode of transactions in the busiest landing centres in the State — Thoppumpady, Kalamukku and Munambam. Mr. George alleged that the practice of lelakkizhivu was masked and not overt at some of those centres.