Haram catfish flooding Batam from M’sia
Paper Edition | Page: 5
Although Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Sharif Cicip Sutardjo had banned the importation of catfish from Malaysia to Batam, Riau Islands, since Jan. 29, the commodity still dominates markets in Batam, causing major losses to local farmers.
Around 100 catfish farmers, affiliated with the Fresh Water Fish Farming Association (APIAT), gathered at the Batam city hall and Riau Islands legislative council on Thursday, to demand that the government halts the importation of catfish from Malaysia.
Catfish farmer Syamzuri, who joined in the protest, said the price of catfish had dropped drastically due to the import of catfish from Malaysia. At the farmer’s level, catfish was sold at Rp 16,000 (US$1.66) per kilogram but its price has now dropped to Rp 9,000.
“The government tends to allow local catfish farmers to suffer and allow catfish from Malaysia to dominate the market in Batam. We urge the government to stop the import of catfish,” said Syamzuri.
Rally coordinator Shandy Stefan, who also chairs APIAT, said catfish from Malaysia is bigger in size compared to local catfish, because Malaysian catfish consume pig and chicken droppings.
As the fish consumes material from animals forbidden by Islam, the Malaysia Muslim Council issued an edict in September stating the consumption of catfish to be forbidden (haram). As a result, the price of catfish in Malaysia dropped from RM 3 to RM 2 per kilogram with the resulting surplus smuggled into Batam.
“We could not compete because the situation is to our disadvantage. A majority of the catfish farmers in Batam feed their catfish with pellets. There is a surplus of supply from Malaysia, where demand is low and the price has dropped. The demand for catfish in Batam is quite big,” said Shandy.
Based on APIAT data, around 1,200 catfish farmers are affiliated with the association.
They operate around 4,000 catfish ponds with a production capacity of up to 8 tons daily, a large amount is sold to the numerous sidewalk eating stalls serving fried catfish, as well as for household consumption.
The catfish sale price of Rp 9,000 per kilogram is deemed inadequate to even cover farmers’ operational costs. If the price of local catfish was to be raised to Rp 16,000 per kilogram, the local farmers would lose to competition from Malaysia.
Batam Vice Mayor Rudi, who met the farmers, vowed to fulfill their demands.
“I promise to resolve this issue. God willing, I will settle the matter in a week’s time. We will take action against illegal catfish importers. Malaysian catfish is banned from entering Batam,” said Rudi.
Batam Maritime Affairs and Fishery Office head Suhartini said her office was not authorized to oversee imports, such as fish, from overseas to Batam.
“This is the duty of the Customs and Quarantine Office, and not the Batam municipality. Despite that, we will follow up the farmers’ accusations with the relevant agencies in the next week. We will decide what mechanisms to apply later,” said Suhartini.