Kochi: Seafood exporters bought some Rs73 crore worth of fish, squids and shrimps directly from fishermen and their cooperative societies in the fiscal year to March, without dealing with agents and middlemen.
“This may be an insignificant amount compared with the country’s overall marine exports (worth more than Rs7,500 crore in 2007-08), but it’s a major step and will likely to be taken forward in the coming days,” said Kuruvilla Thomas, marketing director of the Marine Products Export Development Authority, a government trade promotion body.
New take: A fisherman sorting his catch at a beach in the district of Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu. (Photograph by Namas Bhojani / Bloomberg)
The programme has the backing of the Seafood Exporters Association of India, or Seai. Several exporters, including Nila Sea Foods Pvt. Ltd and Kadalkanni Frozen Foods Pvt. Ltd in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, and Capithan Exporting Co. in Kollam and Blue Water Foods and Exports Pvt. Ltd in Kochi, both in Kerala, have been buying directly from fishermen societies since last year, said G. Vivekanandan, chief executive of the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies.
Not surprisingly, agents have put up stiff resistance as the direct purchases have resulted in a 5-10% loss in their margins, Vivekanandan said.
“Besides, the credit facility under direct buying is short term unlike earlier, when some agents delayed payments for months even after receiving money from exporters,” he ?added.
A similar experiment was tried in the 1980s but failed as exporters had depended solely on agents. But with the success of the latest initiative, even companies catering to the domestic market are considering adopting a similar model.
The direct purchases were handled by about 65 fishermen societies with memberships totalling more than 15,000 in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Vivekanandan expects the federation to extend the market for direct purchases from fishermen and rope in more export houses. Thomas, too, expects the programme to be extended. “It is necessary to break the present supply chain to ensure that fishermen get a better deal.”
The authority also proposes to establish a market intelligence system that will collate prices at various fish-landing centres and pass on the information to fishermen at sea by mobile phones.