Fish vendors’ concerns linked to food security
October 7, 2022
Fish vendors’ concerns linked to food security

WHATEVER ONE’S VIEWS on the ever-escalating cost of living, there is no doubt that it is affecting the quality of life of all.

While it is affecting people all over the world, it is clear that the poor and vulnerable are most affected; and every country must find its own creative solutions to deal with the crisis.

The latest manifestation of the scale of this crisis came last week in the form of a protest by fish vendors at the Kingstown fish market.

The vendors are protesting what they view as the arbitrary imposition of fees by the authority charged with the administration of the fish market — the state owned Agricultural Input Warehouse — for services rendered to the vendors for the smooth operation of the market.

While one might think that this is a matter between the administration and the vendors, its implication goes far beyond that. For central to the issue is the crucial question of the price of fish to the consumers.

Fish is a very important source of protein to the local population so one and all must be concerned about any impending rise in its price.

Additionally, for reasons which have not been publicly explained, there has also been a corresponding hike in the price of local meat. Indeed, the price of mutton / goat meat has risen beyond the reaches of the pockets of most Vincentians.The meat vendors cannot blame rising oil prices for it.

The nutritional reality is that more and more Vincentians now rely on frozen imported chicken, not always the healthiest choice, as the main supplier of protein needs. The price of local fish becomes an even more essential matter.

According to the vendors, they were given a notice of the increase in user fees from October 1; the price of supplying ice, storage and landing fees being the main ones (see back page story in the SEARCHLIGHT edition of September 30 for details).

They allege that when they protested, including making complaints about the quality of services rendered, the management of the fish market responded by telling them that they should raise the price of fish from the existing $8-10 per pound to $15-16.

Prime Minister Gonsalves has commented on the issue by explaining that the fish market has been losing money, quoting a figure of $300,000 in 2021 and urging the vendors to be reasonable.

The price, and therefore accessibility of fish is a matter of food security and an important one for the bulk of the population. It therefore calls for careful analysis of all the issues involved in order that the matter be resolved responsibly.

If the claims of the vendors that it was the management of the fish market which suggested that vendors should raise the price of fish by more than 50 per cent in order to meet the new fees, then one can only conclude that it is a most unfortunate and irresponsible suggestion. One cannot ignore the impact that steep rises in the price of fish would have on consumers.

This is no time for confrontation. Each of the parties involved have their own concerns. As a matter of fact, there are fishers and boat-owners who are unhappy that they have to meet the biggest share of the expenses for providing fish and that the vendors are the ones making the most money.

Too much is involved to adopt confrontational methods and any solution found must also take into consideration the ability of consumers to pay and especially, the need to have fish protein available to all members of the society. It calls for frank discussion and solutions in the best interests of all.