Shooting fish prices eating into Goan festivities

Panaji: Even Lord Ganesh, the `vanquisher of troubles`, could not come to the rescue of the average fish-loving Goan this Ganesh Chaturthi as fish prices first hit the ceiling and then shot beyond it at the fag-end of the short-haul festivities.

With the cost of fish quadrupling - a conservative estimate - and coinciding with the conclusion of the day-and-a-half festivities, Goans, who have been so used to breaking their annual vegetarian diet spell with a more-than-normal spiced mackerel or crunchy fried, had to make do with the less exotic chicken.

Mangesh Naik, 48, from Mapusa who immersed his Ganesh idol last week, hit the local fish market with a vengeance, only to be shocked out of his wits.

"A share of fresh prawns (around 20) cost 1,000 bucks. These are unheard of prices. On normal days, such prawns would have cost around Rs.200," Naik said, claiming he settled for a kg of chicken instead, for which he paid Rs.100.

If prawns were expensive, Pradeep Nagvekar said he was flabbergasted when he found that a small-sized `chonak` -- a chunky rock fish, often served filleted in restaurants -- was going for Rs.1,800.

"I would not pay a rupee more than Rs.300 for such a fish on most days. These prices are simply unaffordable," Pradeep said, before going the `chicken` way.

According to the state fisheries department, choppy seas and stormy winds had forced most trawlers to seek shelter inland. And with no trawlers heading out to the sea for fishing operations, the prices could only go one way - up.

"The seas are extremely rough. Trawler owners prefer not going out in this weather because there is a threat to their safety," V. Vernekar, director of the state fisheries department, told reporters.

Victor Gonsalves, who operates a fleet of trawlers, said the situation was beyond their control. "We know that there is a shortage of fish in the state, but considering the rough weather, we simply cannot venture into the sea for fishing," he said.

"Breaking a vegetarian diet with fish curry has been a routine over decades for me. The prices of fish have never been so out of reach. It seems virtually criminal to shell out such money," Vikrant Bhale added.

Fish, an essential part of the Goan staple diet, has been in short supply over the last few years with experts even suggesting a potential fish famine scenario due to overkill by the influential fishing industry.

A refreshing meal of spicy fish curry and rice at the end of Ganesh festivities with extended vegetarian diet and traditional sweetmeats is a seriously observed culinary tradition in most Hindu homes in Goa.


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