Southeast Asia to bring king fish to Malayali platter

With its availability having come down in recent times, a kilo of king fish is now priced at around Rs 1,500.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: King fish aka neymeen, one of the most sought-after fish among Malayalis, will soon be reaching the seafood lovers’ platter all the way from Southeast Asia.

With its availability having come down in recent times, a kilo of king fish is now priced at around Rs 1,500. Leading fish exporters and importers from the state have held talks with stakeholders in Europe and Southeast Asia to meet the demand as they feel the purchasing power of Keralites has increased.

Malayalis identify king fish by several names, like surmai, seer fish, and aiykoora. Considered the most delectable of fish, it has become highly expensive over the past several months. Its price almost doubled during the period, making it unaffordable for an average Malayali family.

Mathew Joseph, the brain behind India’s first digital fresh fish and meat store Fresh to Home, told TNIE that he has been involved in talks to import king fish. “The landing of king fish on the Kerala coast has come down, making it a rarity in the local markets. Its price in Kerala has risen beyond the international market rate. This has led a few of us, fish exporters and importers, to seriously look into the aspect of importing king fish from Europe and Southeast Asia,” Mathew said.

At the same time, he said the price of imported king fish may not come down quickly as the demand among the upper middle class continues to be huge. The king fish season starts after June, pointed out Saju Ambrose who runs the restaurant Kadaloram near Vettucaud Church.

“Normally, king fish catch comes from the coastal areas of Kollam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam. Albeit rarely, it is spotted in Vizhinjam too. On Monday, a three-kilo king fish was auctioned off for Rs 4,200 there. My clientele won’t buy fish at such an exorbitant price,” Saju said.

Whether imported king fish is affordable or not will be known once the first consignment reaches Kochi harbour next month.

Too pricey to devour

It is not only the price of king fish that has gone up but of all varieties. With Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh witnessing trawling bans now, the traders from those states are making a beeline to the Kerala coast to buy fish caught here. Compared to a month ago, the price of fish has doubled, said Priya Dinesh, a resident of Jawahar Nagar in the capital. Apart from buying fish from the local vendor, Priya also buys from the Neerazhi Lane fish market at Ulloor. “I usually buy fish for C1,000 to 1,200. Last week, I bought a kilo of mackerel for C397, which otherwise costed Rs 160 to Rs 180. The same was the case with big anchovy which was earlier available for Rs 200. Now, I guess buying chicken or beef is more viable,” Priya said.

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