Business & Finance News

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Compiled by SDNP

Head Lines

Flood-hit fish farmers seek govt support

Affected badly by devastating floods across the country, small fish cultivators have urged the government to take immediate measures for their rehabilitation.

The country may face serious crisis of fish in the next two months if the government does not take necessary rehabilitation measures, leaders of Bangladesh Small Fishermen Association (BSFA) said at a press conference in Dhaka yesterday.

They said fries and growing nishes of 80 percent water bodies in 45 flood-hit districts have been washed away in the flooding causing huge losses to the cultivators.

As floodwaters have started receding, people are catching immature fish unabatedly, which threatens the fish resources, the BSFA leaders said.

Most of the fishermen and small farmers, who invested money taking loans from institutional or other lenders for fish farming in their own or leased ponds and other water bodies, do not know how they will recuperate their losses.

Israil Pandit, chairman of the association, regretted that government has not yet taken any steps to rehabilitate the flood-affected fishermen.

In view of the flood the government has decided to distribute seeds and fertilisers among the farmers free of cost but it has no headache for fish sector, he said.

The BSFA leaders sought interest-free loans, supply of fish fries free of cost from the government hatcheries and rehabilitation measures for the fishermen families.

"We made our appeal to the government on August 2, but received no reply," said Anwar Hossain Sikder, a leader of the association. "We'll be compelled to go for movement if the government does not take any action."

The BSFA leader alleged that the real fishermen can never take lease of government-owned open water bodies, rather it depends on who can "satisfy" the Water Development Board and other government agencies concerned.

The association urged the government to set up a Matsya Bank (specialised bank for the fishermen), establish 'fish villages' and create a welfare fund for the fishermen.

Mokaddem Hossain, Shahjahan Kabir, Moazzem Hossain, AHM Kabir and other leaders of the association were present at the press conference.

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Local ship owners blame CFTC for cargo congestion

Bangladesh Oceangoing Shipowners' Association (BOGSOA) yesterday blamed mainland operators (MLOs) and Chittagong Feeder Trade Committee (CFTC) and some BGMEA officials for recent congestion of inward import containers at the transshipment ports of Singapore and Malaysia.

In a press statement, the association said i| presently has 13 vessels on deployment in the feeder service, but unfortunately the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) no| even for a single time approached the BOGSOA to discuss their problems.

The BOGSOA said BGMEA should think of "feeding their backward and forward linkage cargo through Bangladesh flag vessmls on priority basis and create a negotiating strength so that their dependence on CFTC is reduced."

The statement mentioned that the BOGSOA "is always realy to serve country's export and import and the trade bodies in the greater interest of the country."

A year back, the BOGSOA through a press advertisement informed that Bangladesh flag vessels are able to carry 100 percent of export containers. "Immediately CFTC and other vested interests created a hostage situation. As a result of which Bangladesh flag vessels owners lost their interest in fleet expansion of the country."

"BOGSOA feels that such congestion of import laden containers would not have occurred if Bangladesh Flag Vessels Protection Ordinance 1982 was implemented in its true spirit," the statement said.

"Had BGMEA and other trade bodies patronised and supported Bangladesh flag vessels, the Bangladesh ship owners would have invested more towards expansion of Bangladesh flag fleet, thereby could give good support in carrying the backward and forward linkage of the garments exporters of the country," it said.

As a result, BOGSOA said, the country could also have earned a huge amount of foreign exchange in terms of freight from Bangladesh flao vessels.

"It is also surprising that BGMEA has contract with suppliers of raw materials and freight contract with MLOs for bringing their raw materials in time to meet its lead time," it said adding, "but BGMEA instead of pressurising MLOS are approaching CFTC who are the creator of the problem."

The BOGSOA said the BGMEA should promote those MLOs for carrying their cargo who are able to ensure delivery on time to Chittagong.

"BOGOSA feels that BGMEA is not directly concerned with feeder operator, rather MLOs are contractually obligated to carry and discharge the cargo to Chittagong. It is a fact MLOs using Bangladesh flag vessels for feeding their containers do not have any backlog of transshipment containers in the ports of Singapore, Port Klang and Colombo."

It said only containers of those MLOs who are using only CFTC feeder vessels are reported to be facing huge backlog in the trans{hipment ports. "It is, therefore, not understood by BOGSOA why BGMEA time and again is requesting CFTC to increase their tonnage to meet the present crisis."

"BGMEA should obtain an undertaking from MLOs to carry their imported raw material within specific transit time as per Bill of Lading liabilities and contract of carriage," said the BOGSOA.

The statement quoted reliable sources as saying that about 3-4 months ago CFTC members took a joint decision not to deploy extra tonnage in the Banglade{h sector with a view to increasing the feeder freight rate. "During last 3-4 months it has been observed that feeder freight has increased by US$ 70-80 per TEUs to the detriment of the country and our national exchequer," it said.

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