Coronavirus, dip in imports bring hard times for Odisha's fish traders
For the fish-loving Odia, the price is beginning to pinch the pocket. With fish import from Andhra Pradesh dropping by the day, it has affected the supply chain. What has made the matters worse is local fishermen community is not venturing out due to the lockdown and social-distancing.
For the fishers, the fish eaters as well the traders, this is unprecedented. Though the Government has not imposed any restriction on transport of fish and other products, shortage of labourers and closure of hotels and restaurants have affected business of thousands of traders and vendors.
Jameswar Mallik, Secretary of Jay Jawan Matsyabyabasayi Mahasangha at Unit-4, the largest fish market in the Capital, rues that the fish import has come down drastically due to the lockdown. "While a large number of fishermen in Odisha have stopped selling fish, the shortage of labourers in Guntur, Nellore and other places of Andhra Pradesh has also affected fish transport," Mallik said.
Due to the lockdown, import has come down from around 8,000 kg to around 2,000 kg a day in the last two weeks. Compounding the problem is cost of transport which has increased as drivers are reluctant to transport fish to the State in the face of the virus outbreak. This, in turn, has pushed up the price of fish in the market.
Rohu is being sold at Rs 200 per kg against the usual price of Rs160, while Bhakura sells for Rs 220 to Rs 240 though the normal price would be Rs 180. Closure of hotels and restaurants and restriction on movement of people has plunged their sale further. "We used to sell at least one quintal fish a day but now the sale has dropped by half," said Prasant Behera, a fish vendor at Rasulgarh.
The 21-day lockdown has not only hit Odisha’s fishing industry hard but dealt a body blow to livelihood of lakhs of commercial fishermen and traders. The Government advisory to practice social distancing and fear of police action has forced the fisherfolk not to venture out. Demand from local markets has crashed due to closure of hotel and restaurants and transport of marine catch has also come to a grinding halt.
Fishermen have stopped venturing into sea following the coronavirus lockdown, said B Iswar Rao, a fisherman from Penthakata in Puri. Hundreds of fishermen from the district, dependent on marine fisheries, are also facing difficulties in finding customers.