ALAPPUZHA: The state government is planning to introduce minimum support price (MSP) to traditional fishermen's catch with an aim to end the continuing exploitation by major export houses and money lenders in the sector.
As an initial step, the government will set up eight deep-freezing units in selected harbours in the state.
Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma told Express, "Large-scale exploitation prevails in the sector. The money lenders and big export houses are controlling the price. As a step to introduce MSP, the government is planning to give interest-free loan to fishermen. We've approached the NABARD for Rs100-crore loan. The introduction of MSP in rubber, paddy and coconut fetched minimum livelihood to workers in those sectors. The government hopes fishers too will benefit from the MSP.
"We plan to introduce the system by August this year, but more time will be taken to free the fishers from the clutches of the traditional money-lending system prevailing in the harbours," said the minister.
Matsyafed chairman P P Chitharanjan said the state government proposes the freezing units along the coast at Vizhinjam, Neendakara, Thottapally, Arthunkal, Kochi, Kozhikode, Kannur and Chettuva.
"A Rs 100-crore project has been mooted. The state government and National Cooperative Development Corporation will allot Rs 50 crore each for it," said Chitharanjan.
"The freezing units with a capacity to keep 1,000 metric tonne fishes will help the fishermen to keep their catch and bargain for more price. The lack of facility to keep surplus catch is now forcing the fishermen to sell them at a low price fixed by the auctioneers or money lenders," said Chitharanjan.
"Most fishermen are facing financial shortage and they're forced to depend on money lenders. To avoid this situation, the fishermen societies under the Matsyafed are planning to allot them money on a very low interest and through easy process," said Chitharanjan.
"The auctioneers and big business houses' representatives are managing the harbours. The latter give money as interest-free loan to fishers who venture into the sea. And when they come back with their catches, the agents decide the price of the catches, often ending up cheating them. The move of government would be a relief to the fisher folk," said Reghuvaran, a fishermen from Thottapally.