Fisherfolk in crisis as Coronavirus outbreak affects sales, export
Thoppumpadi: "For the past two months, we don't get anything when we go for fishing. We stopped going for fishing in the sea. Some people started going to the backwater, but things are same there too..." said Pappachan, a fisherman from Chellanam. His words clearly showed the ordeals faced by the fisherfolk. He added that they also do not get fair price even if some fish is caught and brought for sale.
Merchants blame the Coronavirus outbreak for the price drop and refuse to pay better. With the new virus infection spreading all over, the fisherfolk is devastated with intense poverty.
Fish sale is facing a crisis as people rarely appear in markets. Even expensive seafood items like prawns get cheaper price. Export companies are keeping away from markets mainly because of the ongoing scare of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is assumed that fish cannot be exported to foreign markets in the near future.
Also there is no use of keeping fish for higher price. The companies are facing a tough time as their investment in the export sector has not fetched any profit yet. With all these reasons, the seafood export industry is almost in a standstill state.
The major reason for the price fall is the companies withdrawing from the export sector. Fishermen who go for fishing in smaller and bigger boats are facing the same situation. There are many labourers who work in trawl boats who are jobless at present.
"Last year, we got some work. But this time, we are totally doomed. We are instructed not to gather in the markets. Even if we could catch fish now, there is no way to sell it," said fisherfolk leader Shiji Thayyil.
"All are getting government aid, but fisherfolk are never offered anything," he said desperately. As arrival of fish declined, women in the seashore also became jobless. The number of women going to cities for other jobs increased.
With the Coronavirus fear conquering the urban areas, they do not even get jobs as housemaids.
Peeling sheds are already closed, leaving them totally clueless about how to make the ends meet.
Many fishermen, most of them youngsters, had switched their career to construction sector after fishing gave them only poor income. They also lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Now many of the young people among fisherfolk are staying at home without any income.
"Sardines are rarely available. That is the major issue. Sales in the harbour also is likely to be restricted soon. And this is a huge crisis," said P V Wilson, a labourer at Chellanam.
The situation of crabbers and crab farmers is not different from this. Live crabs they produced were exported to China. Now the markets in China are closed and they do not even get half the price. Earlier, crabs fetched upto Rs 1300 per kilogram. Crab farming is another vitcim gripped by the Coronavirus.
Prawn export to America was stopped before the coronavirus outbreak. America banned prawn export from India alleging that turtles are hunted here. Fishing industry was already facing many crises prior to the virus outbreak. With the disease spreading everywhere, the fisherfolk are totally devastated.