Fish to cost more unless govt steps in

A-      A+

KUALA LUMPUR — The price of “ikan rakyat” will continue to rise if the government does not introduce measures to bridge the gap between supply and demand in Malaysia.

Marine Fish Farmers Association deputy president Mohamed Razali Mohamed said price of “ikan rakyat” , such as yellow-striped scad (selar kuning) and mackerel (kembung), has increased by some 140 per cent over the past 10 years.

He said the price hike — from about RM5 per kg in 2008 to the present RM12 per kg — was because of huge demand by consumers and low supply.

“We are the fourth biggest consumers of fish in the world at 57kg per capita. Based on the trend, Malaysians also prefer marine fish over freshwater fish.

“As it stands, we produce about 1.7 million tonnes of fish per annum, but 300,000 tonnes of those are freshwater fish, which are not popular, and another 400,000 tonnes are trash fish that are not fit for
consumption.

“That leaves us about one million tonnes of marine fish, and that’s where the problem lies. Our demand is high — about 1.6 to 1.8 million tonnes annually,” he told reporters when leaving Ilham Tower yesterday.

Mohamed Razali said the Council of Eminent Persons has expressed its concerns about the rising price of seafood in general and sought the association’s recommendations on how to reduce the rakyat’s financial burden.

He said the proposals included a short-term solution of increasing imports from neighbouring countries like Thailand and Indonesia by opening up the
market further.

“We should not dictate the amount but we should have no roadblocks for the importers. Grant them the permit so they can import any type or quantity of fish, provided they meet our food safety standards.

“This, however, is not viable for the long term because they need the supply for their own consumption as well,” he said.

Malaysia is also currently importing some 200,000 tonnes of marine fish from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

Mohamed Razali said the long-term solutions that would definitely bring the price of fish down are to explore deep-sea fishing and expand the local fish-farming industry.

“These two ideas, however, will take a longer time to implement, seeing as how they would require large-scale investment in terms of manpower, expertise and technology,” he said.