Short supply and exorbitant increase in the price of ice has hit fishing operation by mechanised boat operators from Visakhapatnam, thanks to heavy power-cut imposed by the Eastern Power Distribution Company of AP.
Never in the past did any boat owner find ice shortage being the reason for not venturing into the sea.
“In my 30-plus years of experience I never found a boat not going for fishing due to non-availability of ice,” Ch. Satyanarayana Murthy, president of Visakha Dolphin Boat Owners’ Welfare Association told The Hindu on Wednesday.
Seven ice factories based in the fishing harbour and 10 located outside cater to the needs of nearly 600 boats.
All these units have a capacity to produce 400 tonnes of ice per day if uninterrupted power supply is ensured. However, due to 50 per cent power-cut imposed since last month, the production has also come down by half, notwithstanding the daily demand of 300-400 tonnes on an average by 50 boats which go for fishing daily.
Ice, which used to cost fishermen Rs. 850 per tonne, is now available for Rs.1,200 per tonne.
Boat owners have to book their order one week in advance due to short supply. The ice plants are also not in a position to supply ice in full form, forcing the boat operators to procure more in quantity.
Cut in production
Power supply was cut by 40 per cent in July, August, and September, and it reached 50 per cent from October. “I was forced to shut down the operation of one of my two ice factories at Pedagantyada and run the other unit by curtailing production drastically,” pointed out M.S.N. Raju, owner of Swati Ice Plant.
Each ice factory engages 15 workers directly and indirectly.
The power tariff has gone up from Rs.4.8 per unit to Rs.6 this year. Ice plant owners say operating generators is not viable as diesel costs Rs. 51 per litre and it will raise the production cost per tonne to Rs. 3,000.
At present, due to cut in production, each tonne is costing the ice factory owners Rs.1,200 (all inclusive).
As the last resort, the Visakha Ice Plants Owners’ Association has approached the High Court seeking a directive to the government to exempt them from power-cut.