Andhra Pradesh

Recurrent hikes in diesel price leave fishermen in dire straits

Boat operators’ association has urged the government to increase the diesel subsidy to ₹12 per litre.

Boat operators’ association has urged the government to increase the diesel subsidy to ₹12 per litre.  

The recent increase in diesel price has put fishermen on a sticky wicket at a time when high operational cost is preventing many of them from undertaking long voyages.

“Fishing is no more remunerative for us due to high operational cost and the recent increase in diesel price is adding to the burden,” rues P.C. Appa Rao, president of Andhra Pradesh Mechanised Boat Operators’ Welfare Association.

Diesel cost in north Andhra region has gone up from ₹62 a litre to ₹67 in the last few days. “We will be happy if the government increases the per litre diesel subsidy from ₹9 to ₹12,” says Mr. Appa Rao. Rising operational cost has forced many boat operators to undertake short voyages . Many fishermen from Visakhapatnam, one of the leading hubs for fish exports with a turnover of around ₹8,000 crore per annum, are opting of short voyages of about 100 to 120 nautical miles from the coast (up to Donkuru near Bhavanapadu) to reduce their cost of operations. Normally, mechanised boats go on voyages for 12 to 15 days.

Lack of ice

Further, the paucity of ice is also giving the fishermen the jitters. Twenty-odd ice plants in the city are not in a position to cater to the demand as the fishing ban was cut short by two weeks, giving them no scope for preparations ahead of the new fishing season. Workers engaged by the ice plants are mostly from Odisha who have gone back to their native places in the wake of the pandemic, which, the factory owner say, is another hindrance for resuming the normal production.

Subsidy arrears

A long voyage costs ₹3.5 lakh to ₹4 lakh which includes the diesel and crew cost, and provisions for food for the crew members. Even as the government has increased the diesel subsidy from ₹6.03 per litre to ₹9, the arrears from 2017 to 2019 amounting to ₹1.73 crore are yet to be cleared. “The release of the amount will help us undertake long voyages," said Dolphin Boat Operators’ Welfare Association president Ch. Satyanarayana Murthy.

Further, the reluctance shown by exporters to buy sea-captured brown prawn is also another dampening factor. Demanding financial aid for the boat owners, Mr. Murthy says the government should extend soft loans so that the fishermen can recoup the losses incurred during the lockdown and annual fishing ban.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 3:24:51 AM |

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