Mufid Elban | The Banten Journal | Tangerang | Sat, June 6, 2013
The high price of diesel fuel has caused hundreds of fishermen in six coastal districts north of Tangerang regency to stop fishing.
Most of them, who live in Kosambi, Teluk Naga, Pakuhaji, Sukadiri, Mauk and Kronjo districts, have chosen to stay at home or to seek other work in order to make ends meet.
They said they had to buy diesel fuel at Rp 7,200 per liter as compared to the reecntly increased official price of Rp 5,500.
Ignoring the nationwide protests against the fuel price hike, the government raised last month diesel fuel from Rp 4,500 to Rp 5,500 per liter, but local fishermen’s cooperatives that supply the fishermen with diesel fuel still sell it at between Rp 6,000 and Rp 7,200 per liter.
“For one day at sea, we need at least 40 liters of fuel. It means that the fishermen must spend at least Rp 288,000 only for fuel and we have other operational costs amounting to Rp 200,000,” 56-year old Dullah, who has been working as a fisherman for 30 years, told The Banten Journal in an interview on Saturday.
Dullah, a resident of Dadap village in Kosambi district, said the diesel fuel supplies always came late to the cooperatives due to damaged roads connecting the fuel stations to the villages, so that fishermen frequently had to buy diesel fuel from retailers at Rp 7,500 per liter.
“If we return from the sea with a huge haul, we can sell Rp 500,000 worth of fish. And after deducting the daily operational costs, we just have Rp 12,000 which we must divide among the three of us in the boat.
“One fisherman will only get Rp 6,000 then,”” said the father of six children.
He said such conditions made many fishermen reluctant to sail and to just submit to their fate.
Trimanto, 32, a fisherman of Sukawali village in Pakuhaji district, said the high price of diesel fuel had hit all fishermen in the village, while the selling price of fish at the local fish auction (TPI) remained the same as before.
“Most of the fishermen here are no longer able to go to sea since the government increased fuel prices,” he said, while citing that some fishermen had sought work at illegal sand mining sites.
The father of five, who hails from Cilacap in Central Java, said that he and other fishermen, who still went to the sea despite the high fuel price, had reduced their sailing time because they could not afford to buy fuel for longer days at sea.
“Before the fuel price was increased, I spent two days at the sea and returned with huge haul. But, now I leave the land at 8 a.m. and must return in the evening with less fish in hand,” he said.
Meanwhile, Oman, a Kronjo district resident who has been working as fisherman for 16 years, said the hike in diesel fuel was not followed by an increase in fish prices at the fish auction, while the fisherman faced higher overhead costs.
He said that most fishermen did not have their own boats.
“Since most of us use rented boats, we are only allowed to sell our fish to middlemen already appointed by the boat owners at the TPI.
He said fisherman there live like birds in cages because they cannot freely sell their haul. Middlemen usually pay low prices.
“It is said that the government always sides with the little people, but the fact is that the little people like us are always the target of extortion. Since the government increased fuel prices again, less fishermen go to the sea and we had better just die,” he said.
Similarly, M. Ali, former head of Tanjung Anom fishing village in Mauk district told the Journal that many fishermen in the village could no longer go to the sea because they could not afford the fuel.
“Fishermen have no where to go to file a complaint. Like other low-income earners, we are the ones who have to suffer due to the government’s policy,” he said.
Nonetheless, the government has increased fuel prices starting late last month.