Amid pandemic, fishermen in Uttan-Virar stare at drop in export rate of sea catch due to internal rift

Already hit by the nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak coupled by the loss of a large number of fishing days due to cyclonic storms and choppy weather, the fishing community is now staring at huge losses due lack of unity amongst local fishing societies in the coastal belt of Uttan-Virar .

The internal split and differences among local fishing welfare societies has resulted in a steep slash in the export price of various varieties of seafood -- mainly pomfret -- creating a dent in the humble income of local fishermen. This has however benefited middlemen and exporters.

"As a routine process, the annual pricing of pomfret (saranga) is fixed at the district level by members of fishing societies under the aegis of an umbrella federation. Presently, the rate is pegged at Rs. 1,430 per kilogram. However, exporters and middlemen under the pretext of pandemic-induced demand slump, are trying to manipulate and reduce rates by creating a rift amongst fishing societies. The fishing community should stand united to ensure stability of fair prices and eliminate chances of exploitation by such elements who were breaking price barriers for their own selfish gains," said Bernard D’mello, a former municipal corporator, who is also the working president of Maharashtra Machhimar Kruti Samiti.

Some of the co-operative fishing societies from the coastal belt of Uttan near Bhayandar have also sought immediate intervention of the government led Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) to end speculative pricing and help streamlining the standard pricing structure at the district or even the state-level.

After a brief lockdown in the first phase, fishing was brought in under essentials, and there are now no restrictions in this sector.

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