Exports of marine-caught fish to China are down by 30 per cent over the three months to December 2012, industry sources say. As a result, prices have fallen by a quarter.
The reduction has come despite coinciding with a Chinese festival period, when sales are usually good, said U Maung Maung Soe, chairman of the Myanmar Marine Fisheries Association on Wednesday, December 12.
“China buys about 60pc of our saltwater fish, with Thailand taking about 10pc. The rest is sold to local customers or as dried fish,” he said. “Myanmar people don’t like sea fish. Even a big sea fish brings in K600 to K800 a viss [one viss equals 1.6 kilograms or 3.6 pounds] in the domestic market, with dried fish selling for K400 to K500 a viss,” he said.
Until recently, Chinese buyers would pay K20,000 for 400 grams of groper (nga poke thin), a large saltwater fish. However, 400g of groper only fetches K15,000, said one exporter.
“Our only big customer is China. Other countries don’t buy a lot of saltwater fish from us, and nor do Myanmar people. I want to a build a canning factory here and export canned saltwater fish to countries like Bangladesh, where they eat a lot of canned fish,” the exporter added.
Myanmar Marine Fisheries Association has registered with Myanmar Livestock and Fisheries Ministry office to launch a public company with about K3 billion (US$3.55 million) in shares and 15 directors, said a member of MMFA.
“When we form the Myanmar Marine Fisheries company, we plan to build four factories – cold storage, ice, fish grinding and canning. But the canning factory will be the most important facility,” he said.
In another setback for the industry, local fishermen are complaining of high diesel prices, said U Soe Soe, a fisherman in Bokepyinn township in Tanintharyi Region.
“We pay about K178,000 to K175,000 for a tank of diesel. This is not a fair price for us. If it was cheaper we’d be okay, but we have to set out with a full tank of diesel whether we catch any fish or not,” he said.
Fisherman used to catch about 30 viss a net, but now take in only about 20 viss – and the fish are smaller, said one fisherman.