Bulk-buying of sardines mulled to keep prices down, sustain fishers

Bulk-buying of sardines mulled to keep prices down, sustain fishers

Cannery owners are mulling bulk-buying sardines from municipal fishers to sustain their livelihood and keep the cheap prices of the canned goods, a social product that has helped keep Filipino families afloat, especially during disasters and calamities.

At a press conference on Monday, Francisco Buencamino, executive director of the Sardines Canners Association of the Philippines, said his group would need the support of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to support the proposed initiative.

"We want to discuss this matter with the BFAR but they are not responsive to our letters. I would love the privilege of having discussions with them. We need to directly agree to craft an agreement, which will also help us avert any crisis," Buencamino told reporters.

"We are trying to increase the capacity. (Canned) sardine is a social product; whenever there is a calamity, it is there," he said, adding that canneries usually rely on commercial fishers with bigger and better-equipped boats and post-harvest facilities that keep the fish fresh.

Thus, Buencamino asked the BFAR to convene a multi-party meeting to discuss the possibility of having commercial fishers catching from 10.1 kilometers outward from the shore still covered by municipal waters.

Commercial fishing boats are presently confined to fishing outside the 15-kilometer mark from the shore.

No sardine shortage yet

Earlier, Buencamino pointed out the need to urgently address the low fish catch of commercial fishers on top of the scheduled ban on commercial fishing from 1 December to 28 February, which may lead to a potential sardine shortage.

"My statement was anticipatory of the supply situation. Commercial fishing is subject to the closed fishing season. We have only nine months in a year to allow us to build up the needed demand of about 200,000 to 250,000 metric tons of sardines needed for our operations," he said.

"The alert is about our need to stock up on all the sardines we need for our operations. According to the commercial fishers, catch at the moment is only about 20 to 40 percent of last year's catch."

According to former BFAR director Asis Perez, the Philippines is one of the biggest producers of canned sardines. The retail price of canned sardines in the country is among the cheapest at P20 to P21 per 155-gram can.

The canned sardine industry generates an average volume of 355,000 metric tons a year, generating an average annual value of P10.45 billion over the last five years.

Sardine production is largely situated in the Zamboanga Peninsula, which accounts for up to 60 percent of total production. Other sardine-producing areas are Palawan, Bicol, Visayan Sea, Samar, Iloilo, Cebu, and Masbate.

Daily Tribune