Fuel price fuels concern in UAE’s fishing industry

DUBAI — The recent 30 per cent petrol hike has raised concern for the country's fishing industry with local fishermen resenting the increase and threatening to refrain from travelling long distances into the sea from the next season, beginning in October.

By Meraj Rizvi

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Published: Mon 5 Sep 2005, 10:11 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 9:10 PM

Fishermen complained the fuel hike will lead to dwindling fish catch which in turn will result in a hike in fish prices by almost 15 to 20 per cent.

Hamad Al Rahoumi, Chairman of the Cooperation of UAE Fishermen Association in the UAE told Khaleej Times yesterday, “fuel makes up for more than 70 per cent of our operational costs and with the recent hike in fuel prices, our expenses are bound to increase.”

“National fishermen who own big fishing boats usually went to sea for longer duration to return with large volumes of fish catch. But, increasing fuel costs will force many not to travel far off distances resulting in comparably smaller fish volume available for the market,” said Al Rahoumi indicating the inevitable increase in fish prices both by the fish brokers and retailers from the next season will affect the local fishermen.

Al Rahoumi disclosed that fishermen are anyway reeling under pressure of steep labour fees of up to Dh2,500 to Dh3,000 to be paid for hiring expatriate labour for their boats, increase in prices of steel and fibreglass used for fishing boats and cages among other expenses.

“And this recent fuel hike of up to 30 per cent has only added up to the expenses with no reprieve in sight from the local governments,” he said.

He said a representation was made last year to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and other local government departments to look at offering some subsidies and reprieve on fuel prices and other costs. But, no heed was paid to our requests and the authorities failed to come up with any solutions so far to our problems.

In addition, to the increasing costs, fishermen also complained not receiving support from the Ministry and local authorities in setting up cold storages and freezer vans to store and transport fish from one market to another eliminating the middlemen or brokers in the industry which dictate the market price and generate huge profit by forcing fishermen to sell the catch at low prices and selling it to retailers at very high prices.

He explained that the brokers are already thriving by selling fish at high prices to retailers following the recent hike in fuel price. While, they make the profit, it is the poor fishermen who toil hard at sea and incur heavy expenses only because the brokers control the market price.

“The government should look into eliminating these brokers and encourage more nationals to join the fishing profession by offering them more incentives and subsidies. At least, they can offer special fuel rates for fishing boats to begin with,” expressed Al Rahoumi.

Meanwhile, fish brokers who are expecting an increase in fish prices from October pointed out that the fuel prices would also affect them with cost of transportation going up. However, the impact of this fuel hike will undoubtedly be felt more by the fishermen, said a broker who is the only UAE national in this trade in Dubai, but local fishermen will have to come together and take the risks of joining the trade.

“The fish prices currently are high, but it is owing to the summer season where fewer boats go to sea. However, beginning October, more boats are expected to go to sea, and the prices will be determined by the volume of fish catch available in the local market,” the broker said, adding that the market could tilt more towards fish imported from other countries due to lower prices compared to local fish.

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