Fri, 05 Mar 1999

Tangerang crab fishermen net profits in crisis

TANGERANG (JP): The country's prolonged economic crisis is not an abject nightmare for all low-income people.

In several remote regions of Sulawesi and Sumatra, farmers who subsisted for years below the poverty line are reveling in the best times of their lives, thanks to huge increases in revenue from export-oriented commodities which fetch princely prices on international markets.

For them, the crisis has been a boon, not a bane.

A group of 20 Tanjung Kait villagers in Mauk subdistrict in Tangerang, located on the western outskirts of the capital, is also starting to gain a stronger economic foothold through the assistance of a cooperative.

Villagers cite the Nyiur 21 cooperative unit and the weakened rupiah for contributing to significant improvements in their earnings and lives.

"In short, there's no krismon (economic crisis) here," the cooperatives treasurer Abdul Rahman said on Wednesday.

Under the direct guidance of their cooperative, fishermen are able to sell small crabs collected from the nearby sea at between Rp 5,000 and Rp 7,500 per kilogram.

It is much higher than the former price of Rp 4,500 set by middlemen.

"Before we set up the cooperative, we totally depended on the prices set by the middlemen," Abdul Rahman said.

The crabs are sold to PT Pilip, a firm located in Pontang in nearby Kronjo subdistrict. It exports them to the United States and several European countries.

According to villagers, the company was alone in offering the "preferable" prices.

On average, each crab fisherman collects 20 kilograms of crabs daily during good weather.

A paltry four kilograms is a bad day for them.

It adds up to a daily total averaging 200 kilograms.

The company divides the crabs into three categories based on how many make up a kilogram.

The first denotes six crabs per kilogram, with the second constituting 10 crabs.

The third category covers all the rest.

Success from the crab fishing has not only improved the lives of the cooperative members and their families.

It has also led to a knock-on effect for livelihoods of other residents, including those who help weigh and measure the crustaceans and employees hired to run the cooperative.

The cooperative is now also able to lend low-interest credit to villagers to help them weather the crisis.

Fishermen said they started their business with soft loans from the Tangerang office of the National Family Planning Board, and later from the branch of state BNI '46 bank at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

Funds mainly went for buying nets.

"The longer the net, the greater chance for them to get more small crabs," fisherman Jainudin said.

"The cooperative is really helpful to us. In one day, we could earn a minimum of Rp 10,000."

Fisherman Nasir recalled the most fortunate fisherman in the village was able to save up to buy three nets before the cooperative lent a hand.

Today, many of the fishermen own five nets two kilometers in length, he said. (41/emf)