Indonesia: Farmers face losses as foreign freighters banned

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post 26 Mar 16;

Thousands of farmers cultivating grouper fish in Indonesia, including farmers in Aceh and North Sumatra, are at risk of bankruptcy because they can no longer export the fish in light of the government’s newly issued ban on foreign fish freighters.

Maju Bersama group leader Rizal said that after the imposition of the ban by the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry on foreign-flagged vessels (SIKPI-A), issued on Feb. 1, grouper fish raised by fishermen could not be exported overseas. “The circular stated that foreign-flagged freighters were no longer allowed to enter Indonesian waters,” Rizal told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He claimed that fish farms had suffered losses of between Rp 50 million (US$3,750) and Rp 200 million over the past couple of months.

“At the peak point of harvest in April, 100 tons of grouper raised by the fishermen, worth around Rp 80 billion, will not be exported because foreign vessels are not allowed to carry the fish directly from the fish trading centers,” Rizal said.

He said 668 fish farmers in North Sumatra and Aceh who had lost their earnings over the last two months were at risk of going out of business.

“They have been cultivating fish for 18 years. Their earnings are reasonable because their products have so far been directly transported by the foreign vessels from the trading centers,” said Rizal, adding that the price of fish bought by the foreign vessels ranged from Rp 100,000 to Rp 140,000 per kilogram.

He added if the grouper fish were to be sold at the local market, the price would range between Rp 30,000 and Rp 40,000 per kilogram.

Separately, Killy, a local entrepreneur who works with fish cultivators, hopes that Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti will revoke the ban because it is disrupting the cultivation industry.

“Now, thousands of farmers under my support who are affiliated with 338 farmers’ groups across the country don’t know what else to do. They don’t know where to sell around 621 tons of ready-to-harvest groupers,” said Killy in Medan.

Killy said he supported the minister’s attempt to preserve the environment by reducing the number of fish caught by fishermen at sea. In order to support the ministry, Killy said he had partnered with fishermen over the years to build cultivation farms that raise fish in floating cages, sometimes called kerambas.

“Fishermen no longer catch fish at sea, but they cultivate fish in kerambas. If they cannot sell their harvest for export, I’m afraid they will feel frustrated and return to fishing at sea. If they go back to the sea, they could damage the environment,” said Killy.

He added that he had met with Susi and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Director General Slamet Soebjakto on several occasions to resolve the issues currently faced by cultivators. However, the meetings have not yielded any concrete results.

“We hope Ibu Susi and Pak Slamet will immediately seek a solution because if this continues, it will have a negative impact on the lives of fishermen,” said Killy, adding that farmers in various provinces throughout Indonesia, including in Lampung, West Nusa Tenggara, Bali and Riau Islands, also protested the SIKPI-A ban.

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