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Fishermen go on Strike Over Low Prawn Prices

Crustaceans Sustainability Economics +5 more

INDIA - Fishermen from Rameswaram in Ramanathapuram district and coastal Pudukkottai began an indefinite strike on Sunday, condemning the low price of prawn fixed by a cartel of traders and agents.

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Prawns fetch the highest returns, but the syndicate of traders ensures that the prices remain low, alleged the striking fishermen, TimesOfIndia reports.

Besides the striking boat owners numbering 3,000 in Rameswaram, Kottaipattinam and Jagadapattinam in Pudukkottai district, about 15,000 fishermen are jobless due to the strike. About one lakh more people are dependent on the industry in the two districts.

"Though international prices for prawns are very handsome, we get as low as Rs 350 to Rs 400 per kg of prawns. Despite our hardwork, we don't reap the benefits of our toil," said C Parthiban, a fisherman.

Fishermen alleged that the cartel of traders had the final say in pricing and was bent upon keeping prices as low as possible. "The prices fixed by sea food export companies and their agents are final. We don't even have the liberty to negotiate with them," said S Emerit, president of the Mechanised Fishermen Association in Rameswaram.

The fishermen rue that the prices of fishing material have skyrocketed in recent months, though their remuneration has not increased. "For instance, we sold prawns for Rs 800 per kg and diesel cost Rs 12 per litre in 2008. But four years on, one kg of prawn is priced at Rs 450 when diesel is sold at Rs 44," he lamented.

Roping in new fishing companies too is not helpful in the region as the coast is literally ruled by two fishing companies based in Tuticorin, says B Jesuraja, district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Mechanised Boats Fishermen Association.

"Some companies from Kerala pitched in some time ago, but the fishing companies operating in Rameswaram have forced them to buy fish from them by luring them into sub-contracts. In the end, we sell the fish to the same two players from Tuticorin at whatever prices they fix," he said.

The fishermen demanded that the government come out with a system to procure export variety of fish like prawns, cuttle and crabs.

"We have been asking the government to procure the export variety of fish like it procures paddy and sugarcane but to no avail. While the fishing companies are showered with subsidies for exports, we the fishermen are left in a lurch. The dollar value has gone up and the fishing companies are going to incur a fortune with that. Hence, fish prices should be raised by the companies," B Jesuraja said.