Kudumbis get a helping hand; Fisheries Dept to directly procure catch through MIMI Fish

Kerala’s Parivarthanam project will directly procure fish, including Pearl Spot, through MIMI Fish initiative

The Kerala government’s pro-poor Parivarthanam project aimed at freeing traditional fish workers from the age-old exploitation by intermediaries, has taken a new step forward with the Fisheries department deciding to directly procure fish from fish workers belonging to the state’s Konkani-speaking Kudumbi community.

The decision will have the Kerala Fisheries Department directly procuring fish, including the tasty Varapuzha variety of Pearl Spot, and will be carried out under the commercial MIMI Fish initiative. The initiative also foresees lifting of the living standards of the traditional workers and delivering unadulterated fish to consumers.

MIMI Fish, as part of Parivarthanam, was launched in August last

MIMI Fish was launched in August last year as a retail venture with online home-delivery service in association with the Kerala State Coastal Area Development Corporation. This was after the government floated Parivarthanam in November 2020 as a pioneering eco-sustainable programme for the development of its fishing communities.

Kudumbis are a community who had settled in Kerala three centuries ago, having migrated from Goa and other parts of the Konkan coast during the 1729-58 rule of Travancore king Marthanda Varma. Initially, farmers in their new land down south, the Kudumbis slowly lost hold of their fields, forcing to shift from paddy farming to other means of livelihood. A chunk of them found refuge in fishing in inland water bodies. In Ernakulam district, the Kudumbis form the second-biggest community in coastal Varapuzha panchayat.

The Kudumbis invented unique ways of fishing, enabling them to catch the endemic Pearl Spot on a massive scale. Venturing into the backwaters on small country-boats, the men in groups of three or four would employ special fishing techniques that involve hard labour and high skills. The Varapuzha Pearl Spot also fetches good price at the local market, 25 km north of Kochi.

Doing away with intermediary hassles

However, much of the remuneration evades the catchers, as the Kudumbis fall prey to intermediaries in three tiers. Adding to the exploitation is the customary commission of eight per cent and the cheating involved in weighing the fish. MIMI Fish envisages a permanent end to all such malpractices.

MIMI Fish has opened a procurement centre at Blue Bazar in Cheranalloor near Varapuzha. The fishworkers can bringing in their catch straight to this market.  In instances where the catch is heavy, authorities will be arranging facilities to procure fish at the spot where the boats reach the shore, Parivarthanam Project COO Roy V. Nagendran said. “We are planning to assemble members of the Kudumbi community and brief them about our project,” he added.

Currently, MIMI Fish has stores in Kollam district, with two more opening in Perinjanam and Kaipamangalam of Thrissur district recently. Authorities plan to open more MIMI stores across five districts such as Thrissur, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Idukki and Palakkad.

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