Demand for fish has fallen and sales have dropped by 30% in the country.

Fisherman in Visakhapatnam suffer as cash crunch results in steep drop of salesFile photo: Wikimedia Commons/Aditya Madhav
news Cash Crunch Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - 08:19

Fishermen in Visakhapatnam are reportedly selling fish, prawn and other sea food for less than 30% of their regular rates, after demonetisation and the subsequent cash crunch in the state.

According to a report in The New Indian Express, fishermen say that a lack of change, is driving customers away.

“The price of Seer (Tuna) fish, which we use to sell at Rs 600 to Rs 700 a kg has come down to Rs 350 to Rs 400. Customers leave after we say no change, how many customers can we lose?” a fisherwoman told TNIE.

The TNIE report also adds that most varieties including the Barramundi fish and ‘Silver Pomfret’, locally known as Chanduva fish, are selling for much lower rates while compared to their original price.

According to other reports, demand for fish has fallen and sales have dropped by 30% in the country.

After China, India is the world's second-largest producer of fish, but it is a perishable commodity, and less than 19% of fishing centres nationwide have infrastructure that allows fish to be processed or stored: Less than 23% of fishing villages have Internet access, and the fishing economy depends on cash.

Profit margins vary according to the species sold, varying from 3.5% (medium-priced fish) to about 10% (high-priced fish) to 20% (low-priced fish), according to a 2012 research paper.

So merchant charges by banks - of 2-2.5% (on credit cards), 0.75-1% (on debit cards) - and even the 1% fee charged by Paytm, a digital wallet - is largely unaffordable, even if fishing villages had good internet access, which they do usually do not.

Distress sales, market closures and anchoring of fishing fleets have been reported from West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. A particular hammer blow appears to have been dealt by the new Rs 2,000 note because there is no change to return.

The crisis of 14.5 million Indians - more than the population of Greece or Portugal - dependent on fishing has crippled an industry that generates almost 1.1% to India's gross domestic product (GDP).

A quarter of these people work along 8,118 km of India's coastline, while 10 million work along 197,024 km of inland waterways.

Most of these 14.5 million are part of India's informal sector, unorganised workers, who constitute 82% of India's 500-million-strong workforce - more than the combined populations of the USA, Germany and South Africa - and generate half of national GDP. Their world, changed almost overnight.

Another problem, is that unless frozen, fresh fish must be thrown away, if not sold within two days: 67% of fish consumed in India is fresh; no more than 23% is processed (dried, frozen or canned).

Neither fish markets nor landing centres (harbours where fishermen land their craft) have cold storages. Post-harvest fishing losses due to lack of infrastructure (for landing and berthing vessels) and domestic marketing are estimated to be as high as 20%, according to a 2011 report of the erstwhile Planning Commission. These losses are exacerbated by the current market slump.

Within 3,237 marine fishing villages in nine of India's coastal states, 91% villages had mobile phone coverage, but barely 23% had access to the internet.

Inputs Mukta Patil (India Spend), IANS