Ministry reverses decision on insulated fish boxes

The STAR online

Monday March 9, 2009

By SYED AZHAR, MANJIT KAUR, CHRISTINA TAN, YENG AI CHUN and YUEN MEIKING

JELI: The controversy over the fish container ruling ends after Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed stepped in to settle the dispute.

The minister yesterday announced to rescind – with immediate effect – the decision compelling the use of insulated fish containers sourced only from one supplier.

“I had a meeting with several importers recently. With immediate effect, the importers can use the insulated containers on a voluntary basis.

“Those using the boxes can expect incentives from the Government next week. So, the issue over the containers is now considered closed,” Mustapa told reporters after launching the national-level Veterinary Month 2009 at Puapatani R&R here yesterday.

The ministry received flak from the importers following the move which was enforced on March 1.

In 2006, the Malaysian Fisheries Board (LKIM) had come up with the ruling on the use of insulated containers but put it off following strong objections from fish importers as it led to higher operating costs.

Mustapa said his ministry was trying its best for years now to implement the directive as it wanted to increase the quality of imported fishes.

In Kuala Lumpur, Klang Hai Sai Fish Importer Association committee member Tan Chee Meng said, with this new development, there should not be any more protests from fish importers.

“Everything should return to normal soon. There should not be any reason for prices to increase,” he said.

Last week, there was a shortage of fish, and prices soared between 20% and 30% in several markets nationwide after fish importers, exporters and wholesalers went on strike to protest the use of the insulated containers.

In George Town, Fishermen Association (southern district) chairman Arshad Omar assured customers the old containers were also of good quality.

“There will no longer be any strikes by fishermen, and there will be enough supply of fish nationwide.

“Although there is no problem in Penang, the new move is definitely good news,” he added.

In Kuala Selangor, fish importer Lee Kim Heng said there was no need at all for the use of the insulated containers.

“Imported fish have to be screened by the Health Department at the port, and this gives assurance of hygiene and freshness,” he said.

Lee said, in the current dire economic situation, the Government should be helping importers obtain better quality containers at a reasonable price instead of more expensive boxes.

Lee added that the new 200-litre blue container costs RM205, compared to RM130 for the 220-litre box in use now.

He had used the same 220-litre containers to transport fish to Singapore and Thailand without facing any problem.

Lee, who had protested against the decision to use insulated fish containers last week, said he would return to work today.

Taman Tun Dr Ismail pasar malam fishmonger Oeng Beng Yang, 42, said the decision would bring back the supply and push prices down in a few days’ time.

Another fishmonger Jimmy Guai, 35, said this meant that the cost of buying new insulated containers would not be transferred to consumers.

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