Severe shock to trawlers as exports slump

Many of them had to abandon their catch after they failed to find buyers

They set out for the sea from a bustling harbour, but several deep-sea trawlers that returned to Neendakara on Tuesday had to dock under most unusual circumstances.

With auctions banned and a State-wide lockdown, many of them had to abandon their catch of export-quality shrimp after they failed to find any buyers.

“We waited for long, but no agent turned up. Usually we sell each crate for not less than ₹1,000, but on Tuesday we offered it for ₹100 and ₹200 to local vendors and the rest was dumped back into the sea. We were told about the restrictions on our way back, but we were definitely not prepared for this,” says Marty, a fisher.

Around 200 trawlers from Neendakara usually venture into the deep-sea prawn ground between Kollam and Alappuzha, mostly catering to processing plants and export companies. “There are hundreds of peelings sheds in Alappuzha, Ambalappuzha and Aroor, but Health officials asked to close them in connection with COVID-19 prevention. They are our major clients and it’s not easy for us to find another market,” he adds.

Boat owners say unlike traditional sector, it's not possible for deep-sea trawlers to operate without auctions. “The Fisheries Department now decides the price, but they cannot ensure buyers. We usually net 20 to 25 varieties of fish and most of them are export-oriented types with very limited demand in domestic market,” says Peter, a boat owner.

Equally distressed are the small-scale merchants and fish vendors who cannot make their regular trips to the harbour due to the lockdown. “There is no public transport and it's not possible for us to reach the market or supply it to our regular customers. Also, there are many restrictions for entering harbours and selling fish now,” says Sibi, a fish vendor.

Trawlers return to the harbour after spending several days in the sea at a stretch, each trip costing over ₹2 lakh. Since venturing into the sea during the lockdown can cause huge financial burden for them, the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association has decided to suspend their operations till the crisis is over.

Around 4,000 boats from the mechanised sector in the State will stay off waters in the coming days as it's practically impossible for the boats to continue their trade under the current circumstances.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 3:09:53 PM |

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