For many years small scale fishers have been disadvantaged by the pricing system in the fisheries sector because they have no bargaining power in the market to influence it and are therefore forced to be “price takers” for their hard earned fish harvest. Adding insult to injury has been the policy uncertainty and the slow rollout of the policy .Compounding this predicament is the proliferation of the langanas and other middle man who promise secured markets for the catches. But at what cost?

It is a known fact that despite the hype about the new small scale fisheries policy, many fishers specifically the interim relief permit (IRP) holders remain trapped in the “Voorskot” system which is dubbed as the “dop system” of the fisheries sector. The “dop system” is a system that was prevalent in the wine farms under apartheid whereby farm workers were paid with wine in return for their hard work.

Similarly, in the “Voorskot” system fishers are forced by circumstances to make loans with the marketers or buyers in return for their harvest. The problem is when this arrangement obliges the fishers to sell to the loaning buyer for the consecutive seasons at either a low or for an unspecified price.

Surely, even in a free market system like South Africa, any arrangement that forces the already disadvantaged fishers to be “price takers” for their hard work deserves some interrogation. And perhaps, the advent of the new small scale fisheries policy and the proposed cooperative arrangements should offer alternative approaches to root out any such exploitive systems, so long as they do not offer any equitable benefits to the impoverished fisher folk. ( Die Visblik, 2015)


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