Fish pricey in City, yet demand soars

Fish pricey in City, yet demand soars

Fish pricey in City, yet demand soars

There is a method in the madness called skyrocketing fish prices in Bangalore. But that method wouldn’t let the costs fall off the towering heights anytime soon. 

Here’s why: The breeding / monsoon fishing ban will begin on the West Coast on June 15, switching off the marine fish flow from Malpe, Karwar, Bhatkal and other parts of Coastal Karnataka.   

That is no reason for comfort to lakhs of fish-eating Bangaloreans, now forced to savour the Pomfrets and Seer Fish, Mackerels and Prawns at hitherto unheard of prices. The Seer Fish rates have touched stratospheric heights, hovering around Rs 800 a kilogram. So are the Black Pomfrets, not available for less than Rs 450 a kg even at wholesale prices at the Russel Market, Shivajinagar. 

But the fish merchants foresee a slump in prices soon. Supplies from the Bay of Bengal coast are set to resume later this month, before the Karnataka coast reopens on July 31. In a few days, trucks from Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Puducherry, Meenasal, Tuticorin, Vizag and Odisha will make a beeline for Bangalore’s major fish markets, including the City and Yeshwanthpur markets. The East Coast fishing ban was in effect from April 15 to May 31. 

Yet, the fish will remain expensive, and even more so in the city’s labyrinthine network of supermarkets and retail outlets. For, as seasoned fish merchant, Dadajaan explained to Deccan Herald, the dynamics of the business have changed dramatically in recent years. Rising exports, increased spending on fishing vessels even with subsidised diesel (Fishermen get sales tax exempted 9,000 litres of diesel per vessel at Rs 7.52 per litre) and transportation costs are crucial factors. 

“Despite spending over Rs 50,000 on every fishing trip, fishermen are returning with only 100 to 200 kgs of fish. Ideally, it should have been three to four tonnes,” said Manoharan, a long-time fish trader. Besides, fish supplies from Kerala has dropped thanks to the rising local demand. 

Skyrocketing prices

Growing awareness about the health benefits of fish consumption and the inadequate quantity of quality fish have also kept the prices high, reasoned Gangadhar Maddikery, Joint Director, Fisheries (Marine). 

“Supplies from the Karnataka coast are mostly Mackerels and Sardines. More varieties should come from the East Coast,” he informed.

Forty-six years ago, when Ameer Jaan took those baby steps into the trade, the fish business in Bangalore was straightforward. The consumers were not aware of the correlation between variety, size and price. But today, the buyers are more discerning, more aware of the richness of different fish variety. “They know the taste and are ready to pay even up to Rs 1,200 for a kilogram of tiger prawns.”

Discerning but price-sensitive. That is Leonard Correia, a resident of Thimmaiah Road, who complained that the fish sold at the Russel market was too pricey and “not upto the mark, not fresh enough.” But he had no choice, because the supermarkets stocked fish that was plain stale !

He had issues with the lack of cleanliness at the market, the same reason why Dinakar AT, a resident of Shivajinagar had minimised his visits to the place. “Although the fish here is cheaper, has less ice and more varied, the new generation is keeping away because this place is not clean. They prefer the supermarkets.”