KOCHI: Soaring fuel prices, depleting marine resources and frequent storms — the fishing community in Kerala has been struggling to stay afloat amid the turbulent tides. The market price of industrial kerosene that stood at Rs 80 per litre in December 2021 has reached Rs 126. Adding to the woes, the distribution of kerosene permits by civil supplies department has been delayed, while the Rs 25 subsidy from Matsyafed has been pending for the past three months.
“Kerosene is more expensive than petrol now. Around 60 per cent of the fishermen has stopped venturing into the sea as fishing is no more profitable,” said Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation president Jackson Pollayil.
“If 100 boats set off for fishing only 50 will get a good catch. The boats that go for coastal fishing will need 100 to 150 litres of kerosene per day, while those going for deep sea fishing need 250 litres. The kerosene price has doubled during the past one year and there is no proportionate increase in fish price,” he added.
The inboard and outboard engine craft used by traditional fishermen use kerosene as fuel, while mechanised fishing boats use diesel. “A trawler which went on an eight-day fishing expedition returned with catch worth Rs 5.82 lakh. However, after dividing the fuel price and workers’ salary, the owner suffered a loss of Rs 1.5 lakh,” said Munambam Boat Owners’ Coordination Committee chairman P P Girish.
“The diesel price has crossed Rs 100 per litre and the operating coast has doubled. Most of the fishing boats remain moored at Munambam harbour as trawling is no more affordable,” he rued. An officer at fisheries minister’s office said kerosene permit has been provided to 14,332 country craft and the inauguration of the permit distribution will be held at Poonthura on Wednesday. The permits have been renewed after 10 years to weed out illegal beneficiaries.
“The LDF had promised in the manifesto to provide kerosene at Rs 25 per litre. However, the kerosene price, which stood at Rs 54 per litre, has gone up to Rs 126. The Matsyafed has recommended raising of subsidy from Rs 25 to Rs 50,” he added. According to Matsyafed managing director Dinesan Cheruvat, there has been only a delay of one month in distribution of subsidy.
“We purchase industrial kerosene from BPCL and distribute it charging only Rs 1 per litre as handling charge. Matsyafed distributes 140 litres to country craft, for which subsidy of Rs 25 per litre is credited to the beneficiaries account within a month. The price of PDS kerosene, which stood at Rs 47 per litre a few months ago, has spiked to Rs 81 per litre now. The distribution of PDS kerosene has been affected due to lack of supply from Centre,” he said.