From The Straits Times Archives

Malaysia halts fish exports in face of shortage

Choppy waters this monsoon season keeping fishermen from the sea

This story was first published on Jan 14, 2014

ROUGH seas in Malaysia have beached thousands of fishermen, prompting the government to halt fish exports until March.

Malaysia typically exports about 30,000 tonnes of fresh and frozen fish to Singapore each month.

They include kembung (Indian mackerel), cencaru (hardtail scad), selar (one-finlet scad) and its yellow variant.

Yesterday, Malaysia's Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the national fishermen's group - known as Nekmat - was told to stop exports and to import more fish to meet local demand.

"To overcome the shortage and prevent spiralling price of fish, we have instructed Nekmat to stop exporting six types of fish, namely kembung, selar, kerisi (bream), cencaru, tamban (greenback) and selar kuning," he said as quoted in a Bernama news agency report.

Malaysia last banned exports of five species of fish between July and September last year to address a seasonal shortage.

That caused prices of those fish to spike by between 10 per cent and 30 per cent in Singapore.

There are 100,000 fishermen in Malaysia who bring in 1.4 million tonnes of fish yearly with a market value of between RM8 billion (S$3 billion) and RM10 billion.

Most are small-scale fishermen who earn less than RM3,000 monthly.

"But these small-timers, with their small boats, cannot go out in the monsoon now," said Datuk Ahmad Sabki Mahmood, who heads the Malaysian Fisheries Department.

The monsoon season, expected to last until late next month, has caused floods in Malaysia's eastcoast towns in Pahang and Kelantan, and kept thousands of fishermen from the sea.

Kelantan, Johor, Pahang and Terengganu suffered one of the country's worst floods last month, with more than 65,000 people evacuated from dozens of villages and towns.

Kelantan has again been hard hit, with 15 schools closed and at least 1,423 people in flood shelters yesterday.

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