Malaysia: Prices of fish caught in a vicious cycle, say bidders

ROSLI ZAKARIA New Straits Times 10 Feb 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Who dictates the prices of fish? Is it the fisherman, the wholesaler, retailer, fishmonger or consumer?

The answer is, all of the above except the fisherman. They have, in one way or another, contributed to the push-and-pull factor in determining the prices of fish. In Terengganu, however, the “daganan” (bidders) come into the picture.

The daganan are responsible for buying every single fish landed by fishermen. The fishermen’s daily needs and earnings are taken care of by the daganan as well, the minute they land their catch at the fish landing jetties in Terengganu.

They do play a role in determining the prices of catch and record all dealings with the fishermen, including paying in advance for the daily fuel consumption, ice (to preserve their catch), food and cigarettes.

The total cost runs to between RM500 and RM1,000 per vessel, depending on the number of crewmen in the boat and the duration at sea.

On a good day, the daganan can sell all the fish to wholesalers at a predetermined price that could lead to a profit ranging from 50 sen to RM4, depending on the performance of the wholesaler.

It is only when the wholesalers are able to sell the fish at the predetermined prices that the daganan get paid in cash. But, if the fish was sold at lower than the predetermined prices, the daganan will still get paid, but at a price much lower than the deal made with the wholesalers.

When met at the Pulau Kambing fish landing jetty, daganan A. Rahman Ali, 59, said the daganan did not play a central role in determining the price of fish.

“The public thinks we (the da ganan) set the prices of fish in the market. We do not, but we do solve the problems of fishermen who depend on us to buy fuel, food and other requirements for that daily trip to sea,” said Rahman.

“However, we usually get feedback on the price of fish from wholesalers in wholesale and wet markets in Kuala Lumpur and Johor late in the evening. When we buy from fishermen, the price will be based on that and we will usually mark it up by 50 sen.

“But, we will not get the 50 sen until wholesalers sell all the fish to retailers. If wholesalers sell fish at below the 50 sen profit, we will not break even or may suffer losses for the day.

“But, if wholesalers sold fish at a profit of RM1 or above, the daganan will make that 50 sen profit.”

To the question on how prices of fish are dictated, Rahman said: “We are actually at the mercy of wholesalers.

“The wholesalers are at the mercy of retailers and the retailers are at the mercy of consumers. It is a vicious cycle.”

Agencies help fishermen by reeling in middlemen
NAIM ZULKIFLI New Straits Times 12 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Measures taken by the Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM) and fishermen associations have seen fishermen reducing their dependence on daganan (bidders). The measures taken were equipment aids, interest-free loans and assistance during the monsoon for fishermen nationwide.

LKIM Corporate Communication department director Intan Suhaila Othman said the board had made efforts to reduce the middlemen’s involvement, which had led to the manipulation of fisherman. In turn, the middlemen controlled the price of fish.

“LKIM provides places for fishermen to sell their catch by themselves, which they can get full profit without the involvement of daganan.

“We can get information about the catch as long as they land their catch at LKIM fish landing jetties.

“We help fishermen by providing equipment aids, such as nets, containers, as well as equipment to repair boats,” she told the New Straits Times.

Intan said another aid was interest-free loans to replace or to repair old fishing boat.

“In certain areas, fishermen are not registered under fishermen associations and have to rely on middlemen because they do not have the money to buy daily needs to go fishing.

“We are doing our best to reduce their dependency on middlemen, and by 2019, we hope that we can abolish daganan’s involvement.

“We can’t do price inspections as they are under the purview of the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry. However, we do daily price monitoring and post it on our website.”

Kuantan Fishermen Association chairman Talib Husin said it helped fishermen by providing aid, especially during the monsoon season.

“We don’t have the budget to provide them financial aid. All we can do is provide basic necessities, such rice, coffee and milk, to help them out.

“LKIM has taken the initiative by providing fish markets that are managed by fishermen near fish landing jetties. As soon as we land the catch, our family members will sell the fish at the market.

“From that, we can maximise profits as the income generated by selling the catch goes directly to fishermen,” he said.

Talib said the collaboration between the associations in the states had given fishermen extra income.

“There is demand for certain fish in other states, and by exchanging products, we are making sure that all the catches are sold, which helps fishermen get extra income.

“We encourage our fishermen to apply for loans from Tabung Ekonomi Kumpulan Usaha Niaga to help them.”

A Terengganu Fishermen Association spokesman said the prices were set by daganan and wholesalers as fishermen did not know how to determine the market price for fishes.

Federation of the Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) deputy president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman said fishermen did not have many options as they were tied to middlemen.

“Apart from the bad weather, especially in the east coast, middlemen, wholesalers, retailers and fishmongers determine the price of fish.

“It has become a tradition among fishermen where the middlemen pay them in advance for the daily fuel consumption of their boats, ice (to preserve their catch), food and cigarettes, as well as lending money for their needs as they don’t have a fixed income.

“This causes fishermen to be bound to daganan as the advance payment is a debt, which leads them to be manipulated by the latter.

“Fomca suggests that LKIM acts as the middleman by buying fish directly from fishermen, and take it to markets.

“This reduces the burden on consumers as the fish will be sold at cheaper price.

“This will also help fishermen earn profit directly without daganans involvement.

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