A study done by CPPR titled ‘Empowerment of Kerala’s fishermen: Need for change in the role of Matsyafed’ by Sara John and Nimmish Sany quoted in a news article published in The Times of India

Image source: The Times of India

Harbour management societies floated to regulate buying and selling of fishes by adhering to social distancing norms has ensured fair price for traditional fishers who were at the mercy of middlemen known as ‘Tharakans’ and retailers who hold the sway when it comes to fixing the value of day’s catch.
Though these management societies comprised of representatives of all stakeholders including boat owners, middlemen, retailers, and fishers are considered temporary, the lessons learned from it would be useful in the future to enact laws governing fish auctions, officials said.
“Traditional fishers with small boats are now getting a base price fixed by the management society. Earlier, if the catch was abundant this was quite difficult and the prices would drop,” says P V Jayan, Ernakulam district secretary of Paramparagatha Matsya Thozhilali Samithi.

While the system is working well, the Tharakans and retailers are not quite happy with it because it has tinkered with their ability to maximize the profit. “The earlier system was better. Retailers and boat owners are asking when this would come to end. Not all fish retailers cannot enter the harbour because of the restrictions,” said Girish Kumar, who works as an agent. It is the Tharakans who finance the boats and this credit dependence fishers have on them gives middlemen a huge advantage.

The Samithi is aware of the limitations of the system in the absence of a cold chain infrastructure. “The fisheries minister has promised that they would enact a law that ensures fishers are not exploited but cold storage facilities are crucial. Matysafed would be buying from the fishers if the middlemen and retailers quote below the base price but if this is to be realised they need to build storage infra,” said Jayan.

A study paper titled ‘Empowerment of Kerala’s fishermen: Need for change in the role of Matsyafed’ by Sara John and Nimmish Sany had found that lack of storage facilities is one of the major reasons for wide fluctuation of the price of fish.

“For the small boats, it is a good deal. But we are not sure how long this would continue. The department has asked for a report from the CMFRI and this needs to be discussed in various levels by all stakeholders. Currently, the credit is provided by middlemen. There is the question of who will substitute this credit,” said Maja Jose, deputy director, fisheries, Ernakulam.

This news article was published in The Times of India on May 24, 2020. Click here to read

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