Fish becomes costly as market supply shrinks

By Kabeer Yousuf — MUSCAT: Jan 17 – The price of fish across the country has skyrocketed, thanks to short supply in the market. With many varieties of fish in short supply, buyers have had to pay double the price at the central fish market in Muttrah. For instance, 1 kg of kingfish, which cost RO 2 earlier, is now sold at RO 4-4.5; shrimp costs RO 4.5 (RO 2 to RO 3) and 1 kg of tuna RO 4 to RO 4.5 (RO 1.7). One needs to shell out RO 3 to RO 3.5 for a kg of Doversole, which was earlier RO 1 to RO 1.5. Fish such as mackerel, barracuda, sardines and red snapper are available only in small quantities.

“Fish prices are rising steeply both at the Muttrah market and supermarkets,” said Hameed Moosa, a resident of Muscat. When asked about the short supply, an official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries attributed it to increasing exports. “There’s a scarcity of certain kind of fish in the market due to increasing exports, with GCC being a major importer,” the official said. Omani fish is exported to a large number of countries, including Asian, European and far-eastern countries, and the demand is rising steadily.

According to the official figures, 127,090 tonnes of fish were harvested in 2016 as against 124,404 tonnes in the previous year. “Majority of the catch is sent out of the country,” said the official. “We have taken several steps to overcome scarcity, including instructing suppliers to ensure a major portion of the catch for local consumption and the remainder for exports,” the official said. On the price issue, she said it could be because of two factors: fuel price hike and lack of sufficient stock in the market. Some vendors said the weather was playing spoilsport, affecting the catch.

“Some fishermen are reluctant to venture out into the sea due to cold weather, especially during mornings and evenings, and lack of availability of certain varieties of fish,” said Nabil, a fisherman. This, he said, was one of the reasons for the high price and low supply. Nabil also said the Muttrah market was receiving only 12 tonnes of fish from Seeb, Salalah and other places as against 50 tonnes earlier.