by Katherine Renton
Some increases in the price of goods and services offered at the Kingstown Fish Market have been scaled back following a week of continuous protest by vendors and those affected.
This came at a meeting held yesterday, October 6, where agreement was reached between a delegation of fish vendors and a three member team from the Agricultural Input Warehouse which operates the fish market that would see the end of the protest and vendors returning to business.
Acting president of the Fish Market Co-operative, Leonard Gabriel, and vendor Eocean Victory say they are satisfied with the decisions arising from the meeting they attended at the Division of Fisheries Conference room at around midday, yesterday.
The delegation of vendors spoke with the Chairman of the Agricultural Input Warehouse, Maurice Edwards; the Manager of the Warehouse, Patricia Job; and the Chief Operations Officer of the Kingstown Fish Market, Farouk Shortte.
On the agenda was the memorandum sent out last week Wednesday, September 28, announcing an increase in prices of goods and services offered at the market, to come into effect on October 1.
Last Thursday, September 29, the vendors began protest action and suspended their services from Saturday, October 1, and straight through this week.
Gabriel told SEARCHLIGHT that at the meeting yesterday they came to the agreement that the “prices that they give us, they reduce it by 25 percent.”
The prices that will be affected by this agreement are the landing toll for the fish and the price of a box of ice. Other increases will remain.
Gabriel said that they came “to the agreement that it is necessary for us.”
He said that the 25% is “still a little expensive for us” and this will still necessitate an increase in the price of some fish from $10 per pound.
The prices of the increases that were supposed to come into effect on October 1 would have forced a possible increase in the sale of some fish to $15 per pound, according to the vendors, but with yesterday’s agreement they have decided to “only put on $1 per pound on each of the fish”.
Gabriel also noted that it depends on the type of fish and whether they are being sold in bulk.
“We are satisfied that they reduce the price so we will know how to cope with our business and how to sell at a reasonable price to the consumers. And the fishermen also agree that they reduce the landing fee by just 25%. Everybody agree to this so we give thanks to the Almighty and everything for that,” he stated.
Vendors will be resuming business to some extent from today, October 7, and fully on Monday, October 10 and while there will be a small increase in the price of fish, they intend to cap it at $12.
Victory said “With the rise in costs we don’t expect to get back everything. So we are satisfied with what [has] come out of the meeting.”
He was referring to the reasons given by the authorities for the increases across most of the goods and services.
Victory explained that “most of the fishers that we dealt with did hold off from bringing fish to the market, so we have to go back now to get messages to our fisherfolk that we have reached the agreement and they could begin fishing again.”
Therefore, he said some may sell today depending on whether they have fish.
Earlier in the week Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves noted that he had asked whether the extent of the landing toll could be reduced, but emphasized that he did not feel the increase in prices was unreasonable.
He pointed out that in 2021 the Kingstown Fish Market lost $300,000 according to the draft audited accounts, and that there hasn’t been an increase in goods and services for over 10 years.
The Prime Minister said that “Overall with the (Agricultural) Input Warehouse you could maybe stand loses of $15,000 a month, but when you reaching 25 and 30(thousand), it start to squeeze you. More. Because of how things are.”
He also made the points that the cost of products such as chlorine and bleach would not change because of the protest by vendors.
His call was for those protesting to be “reasonable”.