Barra Fish vendors highlight challenges

By Sailu Bah

Fish vendors in the coastal settlement of Barra on the North bank of the Gambia highlighted numerous challenges they grapple with in their retail fish trade.

Visiting the place over the weekend, the fish vendors explained the scarcity of fish, lack of preservation facilities, transportation difficulties, amongst others, and these impact negatively on their trade.

Gibril Faal, a fish vendor who lives in the adjoining town of Essau, said he buys his fish supplies from the fresh catch of fishermen in Barra and then sells to customers from the town market, surrounding villages and the neighbouring Senegal.

Faal said the price of fish is getting higher nowadays due to its scarcity in the market.

He said a major difficulty they always face is the lack of preservation facilities such as an ice plant and ice blocks. “We always end up with spoilt fish if the customers do not come forward because of the lack of ice blocks to preserve the remaining stock,” he revealed.

Faal said this spoilage of fish create serious difficulties for them as they sometimes take fish from the fishermen on credit basis and later repay after selling to their customers,” he disclosed.

Amie Jeng, a vendor who sells Bonga “Kobo” and Sardenela “Ya boye” at the Barra market, also lamented the problem of the lack of ice blocks for preservation due to the insufficient or infrequent supply of electricity.

“Is it not an irony that people in Barra can go all the way to Tanji to buy fish for consumers here? But this is what happens now. I go there often to buy Kobo and Yaboye for customers,” said Amie.

She also lamented the high cost of transportation to bring the fish to Barra which, she said, is responsible for the high price of fish.

“Bonga fish which has been the cheapest in the market and affordable to all now costs D20 for every five. I agree this is very expensive  for the average family here but we cannot do otherwise,” she acknowledged.

Amie also revealed that sometimes she incurs losses during the course of transporting the fish from Tanji to Barra with spoilage due to the lack of ice blocks for preservation.

Another fish female vendor, Awa Jobe reiterated the challenges highlighted by her colleague regarding the lack of preservation facilities and called on government to help them with a consistent electricity supply in Barra.

She said the ice block to buy for their stock is very expensive and affects the prices as well as their profits. “An ice block costs D20 or D25 depending on the availability, but this is very expensive,” she said.