Goa: Formalin scare, import ban raise local fish prices

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Written by Smita Nair
| Panaji |

Published: November 17, 2018 5:00:52 am

Something fishy on the table Under public pressure, on November 12, Health Minister Vishwajeet Rane issued a circular for a ban on all fish import if traders do not follow basic guidelines. (Express Photo by Karma Sonam Bhutia)

As tourist season approaches in Goa amid a “ban” on imported fish and a formalin scare in the air, local catch is looking to reclaim market share. At Margao fish market — the state’s trading point — both retail and the wholesale chain insist the produce is “local”.

Imported in Goa means King Fish, Black Pomfret, Perch, Mackerel, and Rock Fish ferried in trucks from the four southern states. The FDA has earlier found Formalin in fish brought from other states and it is alleged that the chemical used in mortuaries is used as a storage alternative by traders to make fish look fresh despite days of road travel.

Under public pressure, on November 12, Health Minister Vishwajeet Rane issued a circular for a ban on all fish import if traders do not follow basic guidelines, one of which includes introducing “insulated trucks” and maintaining freeze levels for transport of fish. The Goan exporters have moved the high court against the state government order, saying it doesn’t have the jurisdiction to issue such an order. The high court will hear the matter on Monday.

At Margao wholesale market Thursday, no trucks from other states could be seen and buyers looked to buy local produce. Alfred Lourenco, 55, zeroed in on Modso, a local variety of Rock Fish. “I had to pay Rs 700, which is on the higher end. They quoted Rs 1000 and I had to bargain. The price will be high but at least it is local and I know that it has travelled the shortest distance and there is no formalin,” he said.

At the retail market too were local varieties all selling at the same retail price. The five jetties where the fish lands have also been active with the ban pushing incentives to local fisherfolk. “Earlier, when we would bring the fish from our waters, these trucks and their traders would push the same fish, bringing our price down. It was a lot of hard work from our fishermen, but they were defeated by trade practices, often illegal as these trucks get stale fish which is made to look fresh using chemicals. This ban will introduce new prices, but in a way it will also infuse some good practices in the supply chain,” said Edwin Carvalho, director of Vasco Fishing boat owners marketing co-op society limited.

“When we would take our mackerel and get Rs 100, their produce would introduce more fish into the system, often stale, but lower the price. We have had to throw freshly caught produce as the price was not feasible.”

At Vasco jetty last night, trawlers managed to get 6 tonnes of fish — baby kingfish and sole fish. While it is good for the local palette, not everyone is convinced that the produce will be able to supply the peak tourist season that begins in less than 30 days. Agents at the jetty though confirm that “not all varieties might be good for the tourist crowd, with high-end restaurants demanding a certain size and flesh quantity per catch”.

“Smaller restaurants and shacks will have to reduce the portion size or adjust the menu. Printed menus of high-end restaurants or five-star venues will have to go with the market price and they will have to bear the loss. We have sent a communication to all the restaurants to see what the situation is and are expecting suggestions to recover from this development. The other industry which will be affected is the wedding industry,” said Savio Messias, president of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa.

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