The diesel price hike, which has put the KSRTC in a soup, is threatening to create a crisis in the fishing industry too as the diesel-guzzling boats eat away a substantial chunk of the revenue from the catch.
The All-Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association has written to the Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily asking him to keep the ‘consumer pumps’ that supply diesel to most of the boats from the bulk buyer category. The bulk buyers such as the KSRTC and Indian Railways have to shell out an extra Rs. 11.55 per litre of diesel than from the dealer pumps.
About two-thirds of the diesel required by the fishing boats is said to be supplied by a unique system of ‘consumer pumps’ which are owned and operated by groups of around 25 boat operators each. Of the 76 marine fuel outlets that supply diesel to the mechanised boats and inboard-engine-fitted fishing canoes, 52 are consumer pumps. For instance, 12 out of the 19 pumps in the Munambam area are consumer pumps. They boats get diesel on short-term credit which is paid back after each fishing trip that lasts three to seven days. The consumer pumps also offer other services to the fishing industry like arranging insurance for the boats and short-term credit for boat repairs.
Moreover, since the pumps are run by the groups of boat owners, the quality and correct quantity of diesel are assured while at the dealer outlets adulteration and under-measuring take place frequently. Because of these advantages, most boat owners meet their diesel needs from the consumer pumps.
The oil companies, while raising the diesel price, also decided to charge extra from the bulk buyers and the consumer pumps fell into the bulk-buyer category. This meant that the boats getting fuel from these pumps have to pay over Rs. 11 extra. Since each boat requires upto 3,000 litres of diesel for a fishing trip, it means a huge extra burden for the boat owners who are already facing fall in catch and shrinking of demand from Europe. The boat owners association has also urged Fisheries Minister K. Babu and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to ask the Centre to the exempt the ‘consumer pumps’ from the bulk-buyer category.