KOCHI: With digitisation set to become the norm, the fishing sector, and to some extent seafood exporting, is yet to recover from the blow dealt by demonetisation. All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association general secretary Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal said, "The business was relying on the cash flow between fishermen-broker-wholesaler-retailer. It is almost impractical to replace this cash transaction with digital transactions. The sector is yet to recover from the shock."
According to Joseph, fishing is one of the sectors worst-hit by demonetisation. "Most of the fishermen are either illiterate or barely educated. They do not know and are not interested to pick up how digital transaction works. Since fishermen do not berth their boat at a particular harbour regularly, it is not practical for them to accept a cheque from a broker who is not known to him. For example, a boat can harbour in Kozhikode or even in Tamil Nadu or Karnataka. Similarly, boats from other states dock in Kerala harbours. In such a situation, they cannot accept cheques. It will also be difficult to have permanent labourers on boats,'' he said.
Demonetisation has also diminished the bargaining power of fishermen. With currency becoming scarce, brokers quote a high price through cheque payments and low price through cash payments. "Fishermen who do not want the cheque, agree to the low cash payment," said Joseph.
Though exporting did not experience a major setback, demonetisation did create some issues for seafood exporters. The main problem was at the stock procurement level where the buyer had to pay cash to the fishermen. Though cheque payments are being put in place, it is not a full-fledged operation.
Payments for labourers at processing plants are also made through banks now. "At the exporting level, we do not have big problems, but we are still facing troubles in procurement of catch from fishermen,'' said a representative of the Seafood Exporters Association of India.