Foto: dok. TROBOS
What happening in the world at the moment, was like a walking dream or a movie that had come to reality. Every single person could feel the impact of Covid - 19 pandemic which had spread around the world. This was not happening only in Asia and Europe, the first places where first contracted person had been found, but also in other continents.
This pandemic affecting vital sectors in every country, no boundaries into the fisheries sector. This sector, being said, had been one of major sectors which producing food supplies for people’s daily nutrients. The effects, had affected from the upstream to downstream subsection in the sector.
Recently, the slight effect had been outlined in the global markets before even the pandemic spread outside China mainland. Which led to the fisheries sector, particularly shrimps which had been the prime commodity for national income from export market. Deny Mulyono, Chairman of Indonesian Feedmills Association (GPMT) generally said that the last 2019 was not a comfy year for upstream section, specifically for aquaculture.
Last year, he continued, had been a year noted by a long dry season and some disease outbreaks that hit shrimp farmers very hard. Entering this year, the shock was added by the pandemic of Covid-19 in all over the world. “This could affect our market,” Deny predicted the latter in one of seminar “Outlook Perikanan” some time ago at Jakarta.
The most visible matter, explained Deny, China closed its importation, shrimp commodity included. Therefore, the market of this commodity had been diverting onto different markets. This matter should be a deep thought for all of stakeholders related.
“In the beginning of this year, we surely have already have our main targets. Reflecting by the market dynamics from the following years, we later attempted to accelerate aquaculture sector. Not only how fast we expect to accelerate it and how long we could maintain the sustainability, but also how we expect to market the commodities. Added with this current situation, these matters have become our challenges,” added Deny.
The concern of the unexpected condition of global market had also been pointed by Iwan Sutanto, Chairman of Shrimp Club Indonesia (SCI). The nearest effect he saw was the shifting in China’s market because of the closing of importation. “Our main market for shrimp was not China. Most of their shrimp imports coming from India and Ecuador. Therefore, the closing could bring them (for example India and Ecuador) to find other international markets, which is our main market. And our main markets are Japan and USA. This could have a big impact,” told Iwan.
Meanwhile, the government beforehand also had a big expectation to push exportation. Including from fisheries sector. Sulistyawati, Director of Export Products of Agriculture and Forestry, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Trade Affairs had described that the government had initiated to push the export of fisheries products. Not only because of lots of fisheries products were in free-export category, but the products also supporting the trade balance. In the recent reports, while the trade balance was deficit, non-fuel product exports had contributed the surplus. And fisheries was one of those commodities.
So that, added her, government had expected to push the fisheries exports with some strategies. Namely, driving Indonesian fisheries products promotion by joining exhibition in international calibre, training and educating the businessmen who wanted to export their products, establishing international commitments and collaborations related to fisheries products, and tasking representatives in potential countries as business agents.
Coming to weeks and months after the first hit of pandemic, the world had changed. Fisheries sector had been affected too because of the pandemic. This later issued by Ministry of Marine and Fisheries Affairs. Recently the ministry had established a budget relocation to accelerate economic recovery affected by the pandemic. The budged was pointed at 483,74 billion rupiahs or approximately 9,12 % of Budget of Income and Spending-Plus for Ministry of Marine and Fisheries Affairs at 2020.
Fishery had been affected big
However, come to this far, especially in Indonesia, which most of its fisheries community consisted of small scale business. The physical distancing that government applied, was feared to be ineffective way to overcome the outbreak. Especially for fishery sector (particularly small and medium scale) which including physical activities that needed human efforts to supports their works.
Later, in some other countries had met the same difficulty managing and maintaining the economic balance amid of the pandemic. TROBOS Aqua acquaintance from Tanzania, Robert E Katikiro sharing the difficult moments his country met during this pandemic. Especially in food sector related, including fishery.
“Taking the nature of our livelihoods like fishing which need many people to work together where physical distancing is not possible. Look their boats which actually will not support being in distance,” he added about the fishermen.
So far there is no proper strategy by the government to ensure that these sectors are relieved from the effects of the pandemic. “This is why our government has not imposed a lock down but allows people to go work. They know that any lock down will have huge catastrophes as we have many people who make their livelihoods through gig economy and telling them to be confined at their homes means killing them from hunger,” mentioned him.
At the moment, he explained some regulations had been implemented to anticipate the pandemic. “We are responsible for maintaining fisheries sector through various ways including administration, enforcement, capacity building, empowerment and mobilising compliance to rules and regulations. However, due to the current situation, we are trying to pursue our activities but in a lesser coordinated way as it is not easy to work as we used in the past. A number of sea and land based patrols for example to curb illegal fishing have gone down significantly and many staff are currently not attending job in a routine way,” explained Robert.
Specifically in fishery sector, he later added, peope are trying to take measures to protect themselves against COVID-19. This however, had not stopped fishermen to go fishing. “They still go as this is their main livelihood and if they don't fish it means their life and those of their dependent will be jeorpadized,” he noted.
It is hard for now to tell precisely how fishery economies has been affected by the pandemic, but experience show drastic decline in catch and few fish are brought at markets. In this case, he described that his government is also losing revenues that it could have accrued from fisheries.
“Fisheries sector contribute about 2-4% of the GDP. The potential is high but due to lack of effective gearsand fishing vessels, fishermen are not able to go farther ashore where the resources are plenty. Most fishing activities are done inshore with poor fishing gears and vessels. All in all, the sector is important for food security and income for the majority of communities living along the coast and in area round lakes, rivers and wetlands,” he added with worries. The similar situation that countries met, later added by low concern of health insurance for fishermen. Couple months ago, TROBOS Aqua interviewed fishermen at northern Java and they stated the low attention government giving them regarding of health insurance.
And Robert found the similar situation for most of countries in Asia and Africa. In his country for example, he noted In fact, health insurance is a big problem for fishermen in Tanzania.
“Public servants are the ones that are insured because they are deducted directly from their monthly salary. Other private sectors and companies also do insure their employees. But fishermen, farmers, small scale business and those mostly working in informal sector do not have insurance,” stated him.
Robert said that only in recent years there has been initiatives to at least make people have what is called community health insurance. “Unfortunately, this has not been effected as it is still expensive for many to afford. Remember majority of the population in our land live below the poverty line, that means they are poor and they struggle first to feed themselves. Insurance is not their priority,” he admitted sadly.
Unity to Hold On
But for the ensuring part, Robert said that people around the world needed to help each other. Including in fisheries sector. “Only unity among world's nations will save us from the pandemic. We are in trouble and we should think of being together to come out of this trouble successful. Our aim is to help our communities,” stated him.
Robert later concluded so many ideas and attempts that needed to be done. Majority of fishermen do not have bank accounts means that in case of any stress or shock as this pandemic they become highly vulnerable.
Also the structure has affected sectors such as fishing and farming to have insurance or to receive loans. There has been few projects done by NGOs that offer soft loans. But the scale and magnitude are minimal and they don't cover a larger part of the country.
“My suggestion is that we can't have something specific as for now, but to have long term plans to safeguard these sectors. This may include forming policies and strategies that will easy conditions for fishers and farmers to receive credit from financial institutions and government giving subsidies to fishing equipment so that fishing industry will be modernized. This will enable fishers to catch more and improve their lives and also have savings,” he remarked.Trobos/dini,robert