'Imported' Fish Meet 1/3 of Kerala's Consumption
By Unnikrishnan S | Published: 06th February 2015 06:09 AM |
KOLLAM: Kerala, one of the top contributors to the marine capture fish landings in the country, now brings in from outside a third of the volume of fish consumed domestically. And part of the blame, apart from dwindling catches, lies with exporters who, unmindful of food security concerns, target some varieties of fish which are in great demand locally.
Experts say that this volume could go up, unless the state takes steps to address the shortage.
Crates of sardines, mackerels and anchovies from Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and countries as far as Oman make their way to the state to cater to the taste buds of fish lovers here, who are invariably forced to shell out more.
An average Keralite consumes 27 kg of fish in a year and this tops even the global average of 19 kg. The per capita national average is way below at 9 kg per year.
Importing fish to a state known for its abundance may seem a bit odd. Kerala is one of the leading states in the country when it comes to marine fish capture and in some years (like in 2012) it crossed the national average. Perhaps, the market for one of the most sought after fishes: sardine (mathi) - could explain the situation. The price of sardine, considered as the nutritional fix of common man, has been going north despite the record catch.
Blame it on the climate change or over exploitation, the state caught over 3 lakh tonnes of sardines in 2013 (considered the highest ever) - a significant portion of which could have gone to the platters here at a cheaper rate. Yet, Keralites savoured the spicy ‘mathi’ fry by paying at least 50 per cent extra because much of it had to be brought from outside.
The consistent high domestic price could be traced to the practice of exporting varieties like sardines and mackerel which have a huge demand in the domestic market.
“There is a huge demand among exporters for sardines, mackerels, red snappers, anchovy, lizard fish etc which used to go to the local markets only,” said Jacob Joseph of Ocean Sea Foods.
According to K Sunil Mohammed, Principal Scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, most of the low-value fish go as fillers along with high-value consignment. Even the dry fish industry has been impacted due to the shortage.
This will lead to higher prices, said Shyam S Salim, Senior Scientist, Socio-economic Evaluation and Technology Transfer Division, CMFRI. His study advocated governmental intervention in regulating fish exports to ensure domestic fish food security and substituting exports with domestic marketing.