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Fish prices crash; Feed cos close as fish meal industry protests 5% GST.

Date: 23-08-2019
Subject: Fish prices crash; Feed cos close as fish meal industry protests 5% GST
Kochi: Fish prices have crashed even as the fish meal industry is on an indefinite strike from August 1 against the levy of a 5 per cent GST with retrospective effect, hurting both fishermen and the fish meal industry. 

While cheaper fish may bring cheer to consumers, non-edible and trash fish and fish wastes that go into the making of fish meal constitute a significant part of the income for the fisher community. Closure of more than 70 fish meal factories, located mainly in Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Goa has thus robbed them of a large chunk of income. 

“Fishermen used to earn Rs 50,000-60,000 a day from the sale of surplus and trash fish that are collected in the net to fish meal factories. The revenue stream that could meet their diesel expenses is blocked now,” said Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal, the secretary of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association. The prices of fish like sardine and threadfin bream used by the fish meal factories have fallen by more than 50 per cent in the Kerala and Karnataka markets since the strike began. 

Small shrimp feed companies have already been hit by the shortage in supply of fish meal, an essential ingredient of shrimp and fish feed. 

“Insufficient supply of fish meal has come on top of a reduction in sales due to diseases and lower prices of shrimp. We are managing with substitutes like soyabean meal and synthetic additives that are not as effective as fish meal for the growth of shrimps,” said Ravi Pelluru, the chief executive of BMR Industries. 

Another option is import of feed, which is costly. “Imports involve 20 per cent additional cost and moreover it takes around three months for the feed from main producers like Peru and Chile to reach India,” said PS Narendra, the executive director at Growel Processors. 

Fish meal was not taxed before GST. Even after the GST implementation, though it was initially taxed at 5 per cent, it was shifted to the exempted list through a corrigendum. In December 2018, a clarification said fish meal was taxable and factories were served notices to pay tax dues and penalties. 

“Many of these factories have taken huge loans and the tax calculated on turnover will be a sizeable sum that, if paid, will lead to the industry’s fall,” said Dawood Sait, the secretary of the All India Fishmeal & Oil Manufacturers and Merchants Association. 

Source: economictimes.indiatimes.com

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