Fresh fish export ban being exploited in Bahrain
Manama, July 7, 2014
Fish exporters are exploiting a loophole that allows them to get around a ban on the export of popular fresh fish, the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication has reported.
The ban was introduced to keep prices down for Bahraini consumers, but some traders are getting around it by simply freezing their catch and shipping it the following day.
This is happening as prices for local fish have increased by as much as 30 per cent due to increased demand in Ramadan and unsettled weather conditions at sea.
There are almost 40 licensed fish exporters in Bahrain and the ban on fresh shipments was introduced by the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Under-Secretary Shaikh Khalifa bin Isa Al Khalifa.
"Shaikh Khalifa enacted a ban on exports of Bahrain's most popular fish to increase supply and reduce the prices (in Bahrain)," explained agricultural consultant Dr Mohamad Foda.
"The exporters will have to stop exporting fresh fish until the prices stabilise.
"What is happening is that fishermen are freezing their catches and exporting them the next day, since the ban is only on fresh fish.
"Usually frozen fish are only there when there is a surplus, which is why there is no restriction on this. These fishermen and exporters are taking advantage of the rule.
"There is a fine of BD50 ($131.8) for trying to export fresh fish, but it is not a deterrent as the reward for exporting is much higher as the fish sell for more in other countries."
Dr Foda said windy and hot weather was the main factor in driving down the amount of fish being caught locally.
"It has been very windy these past few days and, because of that, a lot of the smaller fishing boats cannot go out and fish," said Dr Foda.
"Secondly, the wind is bringing other species of fish into our waters in huge quantities and those are being caught but are not desirable in Bahrain.
"The third reason is an increase in temperature that is driving the fish down into deeper waters because it is cooler."
In addition to a ban on fresh fish exports, Bahrain is also in the process of setting up a new laboratory to support efforts to replenish the nation's depleted fish stocks.
It is being established in Asker with help from Chinese experts and is expected to be up and running later this year.
The new facility, which is currently undergoing final preparations, is being established as Bahrain also seeks to develop fish farms around the country.
Meanwhile, consumers are currently facing an increase in the price of hammour, from around BD5 to BD7 per kilo, as well as kanad and safi from around BD2.5 to BD4 per kilo and BD2 to BD3 per kilo respectively.
Price increases in the local market have prompted the Fishermen Protection Society to call for government subsidies to keep prices down - despite authorities seeking to reduce the amount Bahrain already spends on such schemes.
Last year the government spent BD1.535 billion on subsidies and other support programmes, including BD67 million on food, BD268 million on petroleum products, BD610 million on gas and BD350,000 on electricity and water.
"The three most consumed types of fish are safi, kanad and kabeeb," said society president Jassim Al Jeran.
"Safi is more favourable in Ramadan as people tend to consume it in Ghabgas and when the demand is high, the price increases.
"Fishermen don't benefit when they increase the price of fish because they only increase it when they face shortages.
"Our society has been trying for 20 years to convince the government to come up with solutions to reduce the price of fish like they did with meat (using subsidies and regulation).
"I think the government is capable of doing that." - TradeArabia News Service