RITURAJ BORTHAKUR GUWAHATI, Aug 27 - Salani fish (imported from other states) have fallen out of favour with the people of Assam in the aftermath of the formalin scare. The imported fish market has slumped by nearly 80 per cent, with consumers preferring the local varieties whose prices have also shot up.
Gorchuk wholesale fish market wears a deserted look on Monday.
On Monday, only 200 boxes of imported fish – each carrying 40 kg of consignment – were opened at the Gorchuk wholesale fish market here.
“Earlier, we used to unload up to ten trucks of fish on a single day. But the business has nosedived since the chaos surrounding the detection of formalin in the fish. Today, not even one truck of fish was traded. Each truck carries three hundred boxes. We opened just 200 boxes today,” said a member of the Brihattar Guwahati Paikari Mach Besa Kina Samabay Samiti. The imported fish coming to the city are unloaded in the Gorchuk wholesale market.
He said around four to five lakh families involved in the imported fish business in the State have been hit badly by the slump.
“Food safety officers are conducting tests on the fish regularly. All the tests have shown negative results. Yet, there is a fear among the consumers and they are shying away from it,” the wholesaler said, adding that imports have dropped by around 80 per cent. Before the formalin was detected in some fish consignments, around 20 trucks of imported fish – each carrying 12,000 kg – used to come to the State daily.
A fish retailer at a city market also had a similar tale. “I used to sell fish worth over Rs 5,000 on a single day before. Now I am finding it hard to get even Rs 2,000,” the retailer, Santosh, said.
Interestingly, while the wholesale rates have also dropped by around Rs 10-Rs 15, at the retail market, the prices have actually gone up.
On Monday, the wholesale rate of 1-kg rou fish at Gorchuk was Rs 132, 1 kg-size roopchanda was Rs 95 and 2-kg size bhakua was Rs 165. At the Ganeshguri GMC market, the rates were nearly 70 per cent higher. The 1 kg-size rou was being sold at Rs 220-Rs 250. The retailers had no explanation, though some tried to convince customers that the fish “was from Bihar and better in quality” unlike those from Andhra Pradesh. Prices of local fish are too on an upward trend, and for that too, the vendors do not have any explanation just that the “rates have gone up at source.”
Fishery department officials also could not give any justification for the climbing prices and said the district administration is responsible to control and regulate it. District administration officials passed the buck to Fishfed which, interestingly, claimed there is no mechanism to control the fish prices.
In the financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18, Assam imported 12,618 metric tonnes and 11,517 metric tonnes of fish respectively. Ninety per cent of the imported fish comes from Andhra Pradesh.
According to a senior fishery department official, only seven per cent of the fish available in the market is imported.
“Ninety three per cent of the fish is local. In fact, Assam exports fish to other states, including Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, besides Bhutan. Around 12 per cent of the fish produced in the State is exported. If we take those into account, we should be self-sufficient,” he said.
Last year, the State produced 3,27,262 metric tonnes of fish as compared to 3,06,600 metric tonnes the previous year. The demand in the State is 3.48 lakh metric tonnes, according to a latest study.