Overheads, not greed, cause of higher fish price, say Sekinchan fishermen

by Gan Pei Ling, 13 October 2017 © The Malaysian Insight

ANGER is brewing among fishermen in Sekinchan, the largest fish supplier in Selangor.

The mere mention of the name Jamal Md Yunos is sufficient to set off a tirade from most of the Teochew fishermen here, or earn you a scowl.

“Diesel price, the costs to maintain our fishing boats, to repair fishing nets and wooden jetty, the wages of workers have all increased over the years.

“How can we make a living if the price of fish stays the same?

“Let’s see if Jamal can actually sustain a business selling the fish for RM5 a kilo every day,” said a villager who only wanted to be known as Su, when met at Bagan Sekinchan.

Jamal, Sg Besar Umno division chief, sold ikan kembung at RM5 per kilo at Sekinchan and Ampang last month in a bid to prove his allegation that unscrupulous middlemen, backed by DAP, are marking up the price of fish.

Su’s husband owns two fishing boats – one run by Myanmar workers and another by Indonesians.

She has been helping out with the fishing business for the past three decades.

“We’re also at the mercy of market forces. We don’t set the fish prices,” she said.

Chia Tiang Engi, a wholesaler and fisherman with seven fishing boats, said fishing is an expensive and risky business.

Buying a fishing boat can cost up to RM1 million or more, he said.

Most fishermen here, who inherited the trade from their families, took out loans to buy a boat. A boat could last up to 30 years with careful maintenance.

“The diesel cost for a fishing trip is easily a few thousand ringgit. We must make sure we get enough catch to make a profit.”

To save cost, Chia said most fishing boats would stay for at least three days, some up to eight days, at sea.

“On top of that, we are always at the mercy of the weather and the sea. The monsoon winds have become unpredictable since more than a decade ago.

“Our catch has also decreased over the years. Every ringgit we make is hard earned.”

Chia added that he pays his workers, mostly from Myanmar, at least RM1,200 a month.

A fishing net, which needs to be replaced every six to 12 months, costs between RM10,000 and RM20,000.

Sekinchan assemblyman Ng Suee Lim also rubbished Jamal’s allegation that DAP is manipulating the fishermen and middlemen to pump up the price of fish, as “baseless and politically motivated”.

“The overhead costs for local fishermen have increased significantly because many of their subsidies were removed and the 6% GST (goods and services tax) has also hit them hard. The wages of their workers have also gone up.

“That’s why fish prices have increased,” Ng told The Malaysian Insight.

He said Jamal’s RM5 per kg fish gimmick is unsustainable and advised the Umno division leader to lobby Putrajaya to restore subsidies for fishermen and remove the GST if he wants to bring down the price of fish.

Jamal said he will be selling fish at Padang Timur in Petaling Jaya tomorrow at the same time as Pakatan Harapan’s anti-kleptocracy rally.

He will be bringing in 10 tonnes of fish – from Sg Besar and Perak – in three lorries.

Petaling Jaya mayor Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain, however, warned Jamal that he will need a permit from the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) if he wants to carry on with the plan to sell fish at the rally venue.

Azizi said enforcement officers will take action if Jamal insists of selling fish without a permit.

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