Two ways of bringing fish cost down

IT WAS JUST A FEW YEARS AGO when Boholanos would say ” isda sa ta karon kay mahal ang karne”. Today the reverse is true. 

The irony has not been lost. Surrounded by huge bodies of water and with inland rivers, meat per kilo now still generally costs less than fish per kilo.  If a survey would be run today, the “table budget” of the average Boholano household would probably appear: (38%) for rice, cereal, (27%) for meat and only (21%) for fish. Simply because fish costs more than meat.

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This is true even if 10% of the 21% is accounted for by canned sardines and tuna and another 10% for non-fish marine products like shrimp, squid, shell, seaweeds etc.

One can never repeal “the law of supply and demand” even when it comes to its effect on price. Supply simply goes to areas where it would fetch the highest volume and the price goes up the longer the fish reaches the end user due to transportation and more trading mark-ups.

Much of the better quality fish – lands in volume in Cebu like Carbon and Pasil markets and the big-time resorts and restaurants there. Bohol businessmen then buy fish (caught in Bohol) but sold in Cebu markets and this circuitous route increases the consumer price. 

There is still a big demand for fish in Bohol. Although many Bohol seawater areas are overfished- it is still not in a critical situation of an acute dearth of fish supply. In fact, big-time (legal and illegal) fishers in huge boats frequent the northeastern basin part of Bohol.

The supply appears to be there – but is siphoned into the wrong, faraway market., To the Cebuano market- not to the  Boholano household tables and restaurants. 

Countless fish summits, meetings have taken place. It has been generally conceded that huge storage facilities in strategic areas could do the trick and reverse the high fish prices here. So far, in reality, we have seen feeble success in erecting those storage facilities. 

Cynical consumers have sometimes conjured the idea that perhaps- a faceless syndicate may be purposely sabotaging the rise of the “storage facilities” in order to keep fish prices high and favor certain unscrupulous traders. We certainly hope this is not so.  This is pure greed favored over the common good.

There is the agency called the  (BFAR) Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, under the wings of the Department of Agriculture which had seen the problem and the possible solution thereto ages ago. There are, likewise,  financing programs under government and non-government financial institutions we know are in existence to address this need. 

–    How come we all remain  very good academicians- perfect in theory but little action?

Where are the high-powered storage facilities which would serve an immense purpose of stabilizing prices by being erected along highly urbanized centers like the city, Ubay, Dauis-Panglao, and others? Nada.

There are a couple of island-towns that may provide some light at the end of the perennially dark tunnel.

President Carlos Garcia town (namesake of Bohol’s Favorite Son) came up with a strategy to enthuse their own fisherfolks to sell their sea produce in their own town markets. The local public officials are energized to make the campaign stick since the LGU will impose a P5/kilo additional tax for the fish catch- 40% going to the barangay and 60% to the municipality to fund their many socio-economic projects.

It is interesting to further note that a Bohol -based cooperative, the Bohol Seaweeds, and Multi-purpose Cooperative -is aggressively committing to buy the fish produced from Pitogo island and sell it to their mini-bagsakan centers located in  San Isidro, Corella and in the city, and starting this week in Dauis town.

The strategy is correct-just needing to have a larger perspective.

Perhaps, there is a need to translate the cooperative’s dream into a larger, grander scheme.

What is needed is a  “White Knight Capitalist”  who can use his capital to purchase the entire catch for the day and sell it in areas where people will troop every morning to buy fish at cheaper prices. Why cheaper? because this cooperative will buy directly from a single-level trader from Pitogo island as arranged by the LGU. Doing this eliminates the multi-level traders which cause prices of fish to escalate upwards.

The supply side appears not to be the No. 1 problem as even one island barangay like Pitogo can raise about 500 kilos of fish every day.  This is the huge volume of fish which Boholano fishermen catch every day. But the problem is, the supply goes to big-time capitalists based in Cebu. And Boholanos fight their way to buy fish caught within our own domains at triple the original prices.

It is appropriate, therefore, that we commend the well-thought initiative of Mayor Eping Boyboy of Pres Garcia town.  We will closely watch the outcome of this scheme in attracting fishers from Bohol to allocate their day’s catch locally rather than sell to Cebu capitalists.  They have to be convinced that doing so  they also contribute to shoring up the coffers of the municipality and improve their town’s programs and projects,

Likewise,  the Pitogo Experiment succeeds because the LGU brags of an honest-to-goodness campaign against illegal fishing where the town directs a  substantial amount to finance the task force against illegal fishing. This prevents the dwindling supply of fish which negatively affects the lowly local fishermen.

Bottom line is that we need a mega Bagsakan Center where all the fish will be sold here in the capital city of Tagbilaran. And smaller similar centers in other highly urbanized areas.

In fact, other sectors say there might not even be a need for too huge an investment for a very large storage facility if the daily supply can be consumed before sundown.  This might be true in many places in Bohol considering the growing tourist market which can afford to buy the day’s supply of fish. The secret is really to eliminate the various layers of middlemen and the produce going straight to this long -needed Bagsakan Center.(s)

The Business Model is simple enough. There should be takers or this high-value storage facility from our jaded businessmen and cash-rich OFWs and retirees. Hello- are you there?

For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com



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