Sunday, April 22, 2012

CUTTING OUT THE MIDDLEMAN - ABOUT TIME

Way to go FFAW!

For decades, going back to my days as a teenager, I have been advocating that Lobster fishers in this province should establish a co-op.  I never envisaged  a provincial co-op, but a number off regional co-ops.

The fishers could by their own lobsters, pound them, market them and transport them to markets ensuring the best possible price and cutting the middle man out of the process. The big bonus would be a shift from being beholden to local buyers for fishing gear, bait, gas, boats and even lobster pots.

I preached it, to fishermen, politicians, the FFAW, the UFCW,  but it seemed like something that never gained enough momentum to move forward. This years impasse over prices and the cartel approach of buyers formed the nexus for FFAW to create a co-op to purchase lobsters. It is an idea that should come to fruition years ago.

Lobster fisherman in this province have an opportunity to unshackle the handcuffs that have held them back for generations. In the past,  harvesters would hold their catches until prices improved. Fishers in this province should receive higher prices for a better quality product than its counterparts in other provinces. The buyers always fall back on the fluctuating market prices and the cost of transportation to justify paying harvesters in this province less. The fish buyers have traditionally had too much control over the market and prices given to fishermen.

The Seafood Processors of Newfoundland and Labrador have always banked on personal greed, mutual distrust and the inability of these harvesters to work together for the common good. By refusing to honour prices set three weeks ago by a government-appointed panel these greedy buyers may have just put themselves out of business.

There are nearly 3,000 licensed lobster fishers (who are independent small businessmen) in Newfoundland and Labrador. Lobsters are harvested close to shore in small boats within restricted lobster fishing areas. The sustainability of this fishery is not only important to lobster fish harvesters, but also to the viability of rural Newfoundland.

For years, these lobster processors, which buy the way do zero processing, have said that they can not offer our fishers parity with Nova Scotia  because in this province the buyers pay some of the workers compensation and benefits for the fishers.  We have never had parity with prices offered for seafood across the gulf. The merchants have always thrown up transportation costs to justify ripping off the harvesters while pocketing the difference.

The corporate concentration through the backdoor of lobster licenses has reached an all-time high because fishermen were abandoned by government and had no where else to turn.

While they stand united? Can they afford to escape the yoke of the merchants?

Time will tell.

4 comments:

D'Arcy Butler said...

This is great news, and I too agree it is something that should have happened a long time ago. Further, I think its time that we start to look to the co-op model for other fisheries including the crab fishery. One only need to look at the success of the Fogo Island co-op to see the value that it can offer a community and offer some stability to an already tenuous rural economy.

Anonymous said...

On the band wagon again peter boy!

Time to wake-up my son. This ship has sailed. Lazy fisherman are the greedy ones.

Anonymous said...

Hear you on open line. Good job. Greed is at the root of all of this.

Melvina

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the egg on the faces of Earle McCurdy and the FFAW mandarins when this thing flops. I expect their endgame will be to storm the steps of Confederation Building until the politicians inside bail them out with the taxpayers' chequebook.