New circular helped drop prices dramatically before going up again

KUWAIT: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry asked the Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources and the Public Authority for Manpower to take legal action against owners of 23 fishing licenses who reportedly refrained from fishing yesterday, as well as the fishermen and workers on boats. The ministry said this action was taken after a large number of fishermen stopped fishing in an attempt to reduce fish supply and force prices to increase again after new ministry regulations stopped what has been speculated to be an artificial rise in prices. A tour by commerce ministry officials Tuesday of Souq Sharq fish market to make sure that the new regulations are implemented resulted in reducing the price of mullet from KD 84 per basket to as low as KD 8.
Earlier yesterday, Commerce Ministry Undersecretary Abdullah Al-Afasi, Assistant Undersecretary for the Consumer Sector Eid Al-Rashidi and Director of the Commercial Supervision Department Faisal Al-Asari met head of the Kuwait Fishermen Union Thaher Al-Suwayyan, board member Tariq Bajran and general assembly member Yousuf Al-Sairafi, and discussed several issues including rumors about a strike by fishermen. Suwayyan said fishermen did not strike and are going about their work as usual.

He said officials understand the fishermen union’s demands, and the coming days will see the fruits of cooperation between the union and the commerce ministry. He said the fishermen union is concerned with supplying the local market with fish and having prices at reasonable levels. He said all the fishermen’s catch is dedicated for the local market, and asked everyone to visit the market and witness the auction, which is conducted with total transparency under the supervision of concerned government authorities.

Suwayyan said fishermen are ready to enter the sea and fish for mullet, but the designated places to fish for it do not have any, because mullets live in shallow waters, and the union is talking with concerned authorities to find a solution for this problem. Meanwhile, Municipal Councilmember Abdulsalam Al-Randi lauded the commerce ministry’s decision to not allow expats to participate in auctions, to stop what he described as the “greed of some merchants.”

The ministry’s new circular, released earlier this week with hopes of preventing prevent ‘manipulation of prices’, stipulates that expatriates are not allowed to enter fish auctions unless authorized, and that after receiving complaints that auctioneers, who are mostly expatriates, allegedly raise the prices to increase their profits. Fish prices reportedly dropped dramatically on the first actual day of implementing the new rules on Tuesday, before surging back up again yesterday following reported fishermen boycotts in protest of the regulations.

By Meshaal Al-Enezi