BY JARED KOLI
THREE of the four Asian locally-registered companies granted licence to export beche-de-mer product are alleged to have been illegally harvesting the product in Ontong Java during the ban period.
Dr Reginald Aipia, of the Ontong Java Development Authority, is stunned the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) gave the three their licences despite knowing their illegal activities very well.
Dr Aipia told Island Sun last night that these three Chinese exporters have manipulated the beche-de-mer prices set by MFMR, released in the media this week.
“The prices set by MFMR are controlled by these people, $500 for White Teatfish and $400 for chalk as minimum price fish very low whereas in overseas market these are $USD125 to $USD260 per kilogram.
“It is unfair when they have more product and slash the price, this costs the country to lose revenue collection and people lose their resources which they should benefit from,” Dr Aipia said.
“Because they have done illegal harvest and when the ban open in September they have already have lots of beche-de-mer and that is why they have lessen the price to $500,” he adds.
Dr Aipia said he had presented this to the government Caucus, and is surprised why MFMR has set the price to $500 for whiteteat and $400 for chalkfish.
“Such will affect people with credit from Chinese for their product during the harvest could not be paid in full, and it will roll over.
“If they put up price, let say export price is $1000 so that buyer can pay from $800 to $900 is fair enough with people from Ontong Java and our local people.
“Now, it’s totally unfair and MFMR officers should be terminated. Someone somewhere within is getting a kick back from these dealings,” he said.
Earlier, Dr Aipia had informed the paper that last year Chinese buyers from Honiara gave $40,000 to the Ontong Java House of Chiefs to engage people to illegally harvest sea cucumber.
“700 bags of flour and 700 packets of sugar were also given by the Chinese buyers on the condition that Ontong Javans dive and prepare the sea cucumber for them before the Ministry of Fisheries announce the date of the harvest period.
“They even know beforehand that the harvest period would open in September 2017 and already stock up sea cucumber ready to give to the Chinese buyers by August this year,” he said.
Dr Aipia said three prominent figures in Ontong Java are behind all these dealings with the three Chinese.