By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA – A group of fishermen have called for government intervention to control the price of round scad or galunggong and lift the closure of the fishing season to address the alleged shortage of fish in the market.
“With a retail price of P250/kilogram ($5), galunggong is no longer a “poor man’s fish”. This unreasonable pricing is mainly caused by the government’s failure to regulate private fish traders who secure their profits by raising wholesale prices and ultimately pushing retail prices to unaffordable levels,” said the National Chairman of Pamalakaya , Fernando Hicap, in a press release.
As things stand, the retail prices of galunggong and other fish products do not reflect their value on the farm, as fish traders barter them to small-scale fishers at very low prices.
“The system of unregulated middlemen in the fish trade leads to manipulation of farm gate and market prices, which is detrimental to both small-scale fishers and ordinary consumers,” Hicap said.
The fishermen’s group cited the case of the province of Palawan where the farm gate price of galunggong is around P60-P80 ($1-$1.5) per kilogram, four times less than its retail price.
Closed fishing period
Pamalakaya said the three-month closed fishing season in the Visayan Sea, from November 15 last year to February this year, has caused an artificial shortage of fish products which has caused skyrocket their retail prices.
“The current closed fishing season is creating an artificial shortage of fish and inflation that is hurting fishers and consumers. We argue that the fish shortage is artificial, caused by an unregulated and unjust declaration of closure of the fishing season in our productive fishing grounds,” Hicap said.
The closed fishing season covers at least 33 coastal towns in the Bicol region, Western Visayas and Central Visayas. In Panay Island alone, the fishing ban covers nine and four coastal towns in Iloilo and Capiz provinces respectively.
Hicap asked, “Following the government’s reasoning for importation, why place our main fishing grounds under closed fishing season when this generates artificial scarcity in the first place?
Pamalakaya opposed the Department of Agriculture’s “import liberalization measure” as a solution to the crisis in fish production. Instead, the fisherman’s group urged the DA to carry out a “parallel effort” to stabilize fish prices by buying fish products directly from small-scale fishers and setting a standard retail price for fish products. fishing and the sea through price controls.
“Instead of an importation that harms [the] local fishing industry, the DA should intervene by imposing a ceiling price on fish that would be reasonable and beneficial to local producers, retailers and consumers. This effort would prevent greedy wholesalers and traders from manipulating the prices of galunggong and other fish products that serve as main sources of protein for many Filipinos,” Hicap added.
The agriculture department also planned to address the alleged shortage of fish products by importing at least 60,000 metric tons of galunggongand other species of pelagic fish during the first quarter of the year.
The fishing group complained that [imports] “will drive down farm gate fish prices, forcing small-scale fishers into deep crisis and bankruptcy.”
“Flooding our local markets with imported fish will do more harm than good to our struggling fishing industry. This liberalization program never solves the country’s fish production crisis. It’s rather [a] burden on local fishermen whose fish products are supplanted by imported fish,” Hicap said. (JJE, RVO)