Malaysia: With production plummeting, cockles no longer cheap seafood indulgence

MAHAIZURA ABD MALIK New Straits Times 14 Oct 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The cockle, once considered cheap seafood, is now labelled “rich people’s delicacy”, as its price has skyrocketed over the years.

Malaysian Fisheries Department Planning and Development Research Officer Dr Alias Man agrees that there has been a sharp increase in the price of cockle, which is due to declining production nationwide.

"Our study shows that water quality plays an important role in breeding cockles. If there is pollution, it will affect production, and cockles (are vulnerable to pollution and) will die quickly,” he said.

According to him, several management plans are being drafted and will be implemented in the near future to address the problem of polluted water.

"In addition to keeping cockle breeds for seeding purposes, we need a nationwide study on various aspects of production to identify why shellfish cannot be produced (in the amount they were) before.

"For me, this is likely related to genetic problems, where the seeds are no longer suitable for the present environment, and we need to look for or develop new breeds that have better durability for our environment," he said.

Dr Alias said that for the time being, breeders are advised to reduce the rate of seed distribution to minimise losses.

"Declining production leads to high demand from customers, which in turn leads to the cockle being sold expensively in the market," he said.

Meanwhile, a Harian Metro survey of markets, retail outlets and supermarkets around Sentul and Selayang found that few traders are selling cockles – and those that trade in cockles sell them at high prices.

There were a handful of traders selling grade C cockles at RM9 per kilogram (kg) to RM14/kg, while peeled cockles are sold at RM20 per kg to RM26.90 per kg.

At the Selayang Wholesale Market, the supply is quite easily available at RM3 for grade C, RM7 to RM8 (grade B) and RM10 to RM12 (grade A).

A dealer who declined to be named said that he deals with suppliers in Kuala Selangor, but in quantities smaller than ever before.

"Every day, we only take about 50kg. Sometimes, it is not sold, because the price is very expensive," he added.