MIFCO to settle MVR 46 mil in pending pay to fishers

Fishers launched protests on Wednesday, demanding Maldives government heed their demands to clear outstanding payments among other things -- Sun Photo/ Mohamed Shafeeu

Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) on Thursday, has promised to pay MVR 46 million out of the total outstanding MVR 80 million to local fishers.

MIFCO said it will pay the amount some time on Thursday.

Fishers in different parts of the country launched protests on Wednesday, demanding government deliver its pledges, especially owing to a significant MVR 80 million in pending payments.

The protests, initiated by the Bodu Kanneli Masveringe Union (BKMU), were called off on Thursday early hours after the government decided to forgo its decision of incorporating longline fishing in yellowfin tuna, and rate cuts for diesel procured by yellowfin tuna fishers.

MIFCO also said it was working with the government to make a one-off payment for the remaining pending amount, but did not specifiy when it can fully clear the pending total.

The corporation further adds pending payments to local fishers was a major concern and setback for them.

Besides assuring to clear the pending total, MIFCO added it has begun works to transition as an unsubsidized corporation.

The corporation currently purchases fish at a rate of MVR 20 per kilogram through provision of a state subsidy.

Around the culmination of former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's administration, the then government announced a purchase rate of MVR 25 per kilogram on fish.

The current government, which was the opposition then, alleged MIFCO bore losses from inflated purchase rates while the proceedings from these transactions were never paid to the fishers.

BKMU led the protests on Wednesday, demanding the government fulfill its pledges soon, calling to expedite payment of their dues.

The protests that began at Hulhumale' harbor moved to the Jetty No. 1 at Male' City, which were called off after the Ministry of Fisheries and Ocean Resources informed it would comply to the demands.

However, the Minister of Fisheries Ahmed Shiyam on Wednesday also said the state's pledges to fishers can be fulfilled only when economic conditions stabilize, adding MIFCO is currently unable to purchase yellowfin tuna from local fishers owing to financial constraints.

The incumbent government inherited MVR 250 million in outstanding payments to fishers.

Statistics disclosed by the government earlier showed the government had paid over MVR 850 million to fishers during the first six months of the current government.