Despite rising cost of fish in Surigao, officials assure there is enough supply

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SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Feb) – Fish supply for Surigao del Norte and this city is still enough to feed local consumers, and even guests, authorities said.

But despite this reality, the price of fish and other marine products in the local market has become “unreasonably high.”

Gregoria A. Tisang, of the Bureau of Agriculture and Statistics (BAS), said what was normal before is rare nowadays. “We are already used to the high price of fish that if it goes down it becomes unusual. Being cheap now is rare while expensive is normal,” she said.


The BAS database showed that Surigao del Norte’s supply of marine products for the past five years had been enough, albeit decreasing in terms of volume, to feed the city’s population and the rest of the province.


Roberto T. Senaca, BAS provincial officer, said the supply of fish in the city is more than enough contrary to the perceived notion that fish is now sold at a steep price because of the lack of supply. Surigao City has a total population of 132,151 while the province has a total of 277,317 as of May 2010, the National Statistics and Coordination Board’s records show.


“We have enough. But we have middlemen who do not directly supply to the market,” he noted.


Dr. Alan Quines, city market administrator and city veterinary officer, said the situation is pervasive not because there is no supply of fish but mainly because of the low fish catch caused by the bad weather condition that the city and the rest of Mindanao have experienced since last year.


Another factor cited by officials is the ovulation and hatching period of the fish which runs from December to February, and thus not wise to catch the pregnant fish nor the young ones.


A check at the local public market Monday this week showed the price of “Dalagang Bukid” or Caesio has ranged from P160 to P180.


The same fish during the pre-Christmas season and before typhoon Pablo hit Mindanao was P120 to P140 per kilo. The price however spiked to P200 to P220 a week before Christmas.


The BAS database showed “Dalagang Bukid” was sold around P125 a kilo in 2007 but price has steadily increased yearly until its prevailing price of P140 to P160.


Decreasing volume, increasing prices


The same government statistics showed the prevailing market price of fish has continually increased through the years while the annual volume declined.


In 2008, the volume of fish was 3.777 million metric tons, 3.263 million metric tons in 2009, 3.413 million metric tons in 2010, 3.445 million metric tons in 2011 and 3.068 million metric tons in 2012.


Meanwhile, the retail price of fish continuously increased, as shown in the table:








Dalagang Bukid (Caesio)






Bisugo or Sagisi (Threadfin bream)






Dilis (Anchovies)






Shrimp, Sugpo (Tiger Prawn)






Sapsap (Slipmouth)






Crab, Almisag (Blue Crab)






Source: BAS-Surigao del Norte


“Galunggong” (or Roundscad) has undergone a similar fate – from P64.59 in 2007 to P100 in 2011. Today, a kilo of Galunggong, which became known as the “isda ng masa” (fish of the masses) during the presidency of the late Corazon C. Aquino (1986-1992), sells from P110 to P130 at the local market.


Another common fish preferred by local market goers is “Tulingan” or Frigate Tuna, which sold for P70 to P75 a kilo in 2007 but is now P150.


City Council probe


The City Council last year conducted an investigation on a public clamor that the city government could not seem to stop the spiraling increase in prices.


Consumers complained that the excessive and unreasonable pricing is caused by fish traders controlling the prices even before the catch reaches the fish landing site. Meanwhile, a bulk of the fish catch in the city and even in the province are delivered in faraway places, including Butuan, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and even to the Zamboanga provinces, officials said.


There is also a persisting sentiment that Surigaonons end up not enjoying the area’s produce, putting the blame on the government for not trying to put a stop to the unmitigated price increases.


The probe resulted in the exposé on the presence of the “mamikilay” or speculators who dictate prices even before the catch arrives at the port or at fish landing sites, down to the tables at the local market.


Quines said of the 160 tables or stalls, at least 10 people are using each stall at different times.


This is because a stall owner may lend the space to another fish vendor, and this vendor in the next day will give the space again to another vendor, and so forth, Quines said. The transfer of “ownership” of the stall results in the increase in the rental of the table which contributes to the unstable prices of the fish, he added.


Leonardo Ejandra, president of the Surigao Fish Vendors Association, said there are actually layers of people who cause fish prices at the market to go up. He explains that if for instance a buyer gets to get the fish at the port at P60 per kilo and buys these in bulk from a box that contains 45 to 60 kilos, he then sells these at P100 to P110 per kilo.


Before the fish reaches the market, another group of middlemen negotiate to buy the fish at say P115 to P120 a kilo. The process goes on until the fish arrives at the table and the price is now pegged at P130 to P140, when originally these cost only P60 at the fish landing site.


Quines said city ordinance No. 339 or “An Ordinance regulating the distribution and sale of marine products within the city and for other purposes” was enacted in May 2012 as a result of the investigation and the public clamor.


But he admitted this has not been fully operationalized yet as there is still a need to meet various government agencies concerned, including the City Agriculture Office, the Department of Health, the Philippine National Police and other concerned agencies to monitor the implementation of the said ordinance.


“Our first step is to meet the fish vendors and tell them that we need to cut down on the number of helpers that each stalls have. This will make sure that we can easily monitor the so-called mamikilay which has caused the excessive prices,” he said.


Ejandra confirmed that a meeting was undertaken Friday morning and the association agreed to have one helper each. “We have agreed on that because things can be monitored anyway with the installation of CCTVs (closed circuit television),” he added.


Interestingly, prices went down Saturday to the delight of market goers. Ejandra said the drop is due to “dabos” or an abundant supply of fish. Dalagang Bukid, for instance, has dropped to P130 per kilo from Monday’s P160 to P180, while other “first class” marine products dropped to an average of P40 per kilo.


Ejandra said the prices have gone down but they are the ones who suffer because of the low return.


“If the prices are high, it gets into the news. But now that the price is low, it doesn’t get reported,” Alejandra’s helper complained. (Vanessa L. Almeda / MindaNews)

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