BY BEN BILUA
LOCAL Bechdemer farmers have expressed their disappointment over the local buying price of beche-de-mer, claiming the prices are very low compared to the international market price.
In an interview with this paper, resource owner from Ontong Java who claims a vast experience in export activities, Mr Gabriel Kemaiki, said the buying price are very poor compared to marketing price.
He stressed that the beche-de-mer prices published in the media demonstrate that the Ministry is not doing its research on beche-de-mer prices and international buying prices.
Kemaiki said beche-de-mer (BDM) is a special commodity known for having a high price tag in the international market as demands and volume of products remain high.
He said the integrity buying price imposed by the Ministry for local buyers is questionable because there is a high average gap between the domestic price and international buying price.
“We started to think that this is another move to lower the price and whoever is dealing with the current bechdemer business will going to get away with huge amount of money,” Mr Kemaiki said.
He said Ontong Java agents are buying BDM at higher prices than the price list published by the Ministry because they know the international market of beche-de-mer is high.
Kemaiki said the legal domestic buying price of BDM will affect local buyers and rip resource owners of their benefits.
He suggests the Ministry to open up the market so that resource owners can shop for better market.
Kemaiki said the Ministry should focus on monitoring the international market and let the resource owners and the exporters decide the domestic buying price.
He continues to say that the decision made by the Ministry to accept only four license holder for exporting bechdemer is a cheap move by the government and Ministry responsible.
“The government already experience involvement of third party in the previous beche-de-mer export activities.
“We experienced that beche-de-mer export licence holders are joint business and in most cases these businesses export beche-de-mer under one licence holder.
“This practice open up an opportunity to law breakers to invade taxes and at the end of the day the government will lose lots of revenues,” Kemaiki said.
He said the ministry of fisheries must think carefully before making its decision otherwise rules and regulations imposed to manage beche-de-mer business are made on the best interest of bad business people and not the people of Solomon Islands.
Responding to allegations, the ministry of fisheries explained that they came up with minimum benchmark prices after they compared the prices used by our neighbours in the region.
A statement from the Ministry says that the recommended prices are there as benchmark prices.
“What this means is those with license to export must not go below this recommended prices when they buy BDM from the resources owners.
“Additionally, the value of each species when dried will depend on the species, the sizes of the product and the quality of the processing (colour, smell, texture) etc.
“To try and compare international prices with the ones set out by MFMR is unrealistic because of the above reason in bold,” the statement says.