Vendors at the Kingstown Fish Market are up in arms over a planned increase in the prices of goods and services they obtain from the Agricultural Input Warehouse, which manages the fish market.
And they are saying that their only response would be to raise the price of fish to consumers.
“Please take note that there will be an increase in the price of goods and services offered at the Kingstown Fish Market. This change in prices will come into effect from noon on 1st October, 2022,” a memorandum to the vendors dated September 28 and signed by chief operations officer of the Kingstown Fish Market, Farouk Shortte reads.
It notes that the fish market has been experiencing increases in the cost of electricity and the cost of business which in turn has affected the cost of providing service to vendors.
“The increase helps us ensure our commitment to providing the very best in goods and services to you,” the memorandum concludes.
When SEARCHLIGHT visited the fish outlet in Kingstown yesterday, several vendors were wearing placards in protest as they served clients.
Acting president of the Fish Market Co-operative, Leonard Gabriel said there was no consultation and if the prices go into effect they will have to increase the price of fish to consumers.
“For the year of 2022, we’ve been facing a lot of problems from the management which is Agriculture Input Warehouse.” Gabriel went on “They want to raise the price of ice, they want to raise the price of landing toll. They even put locks on the pipes from us. And it’s hard for us to come here everyday to do business and can’t make a profit,” he complained.
Leonard told SEARCHLIGHT, “We already increase the price of fish for the year, it used to be $8.00 per lb, some we sell at $7.00 some we sell at $8.00 well when the gas price raise, we had to raise them because the fisherman complaining that the gas price raise… so we start selling some of them for $10.00.”
He went on, “We usually pay $10 to take out a box full of fish from out the storage, now we have to pay $20.00. We usually buy a box of ice to ice the fish for $10.00, now we have to pay $20.00 and $25.00.”
Gabriel added, “It is very hard because even if we sell fish for $12.00/ $15.00, poor people hardly going and eat fish. People complaining all now about how hard it is to buy one pound of fish.”
Another vendor, Eocean Victory said the fish market’s management told them to increase the price of fish to consumers to $15 as a result of the increased prices they will be required to pay for goods and services.
“When we complained about the high cost that they increasing, he said to us to raise fish for $15.00 / $16.00. I asked him if the economy of St Vincent could bare this kind of raise of fish,” Victory told SEARCHLIGHT.
“Poor people will never be able to eat fish, most the people that come to the market, is the ordinary people that works for small money and come and buy they fish to sustain themselves.
“If we raise fish to that kind of money, the business will go down because the ordinary people them won’t be able to buy fish,” Victory added.
He complained that the vendors contribute very little to the rising electricity cost of the facility and should not be made to pay for what others use.
President of the National Fisherfolk Co-operative, Winsbert Harry who was at the fish facility, said he was standing with the vendors as the increase has a rippling effect and will also affect the fisherfolk.
A fisher for 25 years, Harry said “To see now you have to spend $630.00 a day in gas, to land your fish you have to pay $0.30…and then if you don’t get to sell your fish and the vendors didn’t buy any, you now have to buy a box of ice for $25.00. What I find what this memo is, it is really making life hard for the fisherfolk.”
Harry is suggesting that a meeting be held with the relevant authorities, including the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to review the impending increases.
“I am against the increases, I am totally against the increases, because how it put us now, it make life harder for us as a fisher, because we will be only catching fish, we won’t be making any money”.
Harry said it was already hard on the fisher folk that on Saturdays, one of the busiest days in the week the Kingstown fish market closes at 3:00 p.m and now that the cost of goods and services is rising the fish market will be closed at 12 midday on Saturdays.
Among the messages on the placards of protesting vendors were: ‘Poor people can’t buy fish just now’; ‘Am to old for this stress with inputwarehouse’’; ‘Agriculture input-warehouse have no respect for the vendors and our cooperative.’
The facility’s operating officer had stepped out when SEARCHLIGHT tried to contact him.