KOCHI: Even as ruffled feathers rule the roost in the case of chicken price that headed north while the GST rates suggested otherwise, it may be time to brace for another price jolt. Soon, it will be skyrocketing fish prices that will push Keralites into troubled waters, with GST actually suggesting that the value chain of fish reaching the kitchen will see a few upward revisions.
Though the exact figures are not yet formalised, the fisheries sector apprehends a steep rise in operational cost as almost all fishing gear and other allied equipment has been brought under the GST net. Fishing hooks, fishing rods, fishing tackles, and fishing twines, which were hitherto tax-free products will now attract 12 per cent GST while tax on fishing ropes is pegged at 18 per cent.
This has come as a bolt from the blue for a sector that is already under stress from fluctuating fuel price, depletion in fisheries resources in the sea and exploitation by middlemen in selling the catch. The real impact of GST will soon be felt, said Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal, general secretary of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators’ Association, while speaking to Express.
“Even the price of something as basic and unavoidable as ice will rise as it now attracts 5 per cent GST. The price of inboard and outboard engine now attracts 14 per cent and 28 per cent GST respectively. It should be borne in mind that the average lifespan of such engines is below five years, given the constant contact of its parts with saline water,” Xavier said.
Swathanthra Malsyathozhilali Aikyavedi state president Charles George confirmed the fears about the impending operational cost escalation. “This is going to reflect in the market soon by way of higher cost for all varieties of fish. The impact is going to be just as bad for the traditional fishermen as for those who have gone in for modernization. GST on nylon twine used for net is now 18 per cent and the result is a per kilogram price differential of Rs 60. Floats used for nets now attract 28 per cent GST,” he said.
But, the bulk of Keralites who cannot do with fish of some kind on their daily platter will not be too interested in the fine print. What they would be worried about is how much more they will soon have to fork out for their favourite mathi (chala), ayila, nettoli, karimeen, avoli and neymeen.