Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) on Monday reduced the per kilogram purchase price of Skipjack tuna from MVR 25 to MVR 20.

MIFCO, in the lead-up to the second-round run-off of the presidential elections between the then-incumbent President and MDP candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and current President Mohamed Muizzu, increased the per-kilo buying rate of skipjack tuna from MVR 17 to MVR 25; a 47 percent hike which many, even at the time, believed to be unsustainable given the prevailing market rates.

The reason for the increase given by the then government was that it had received assurances from the European Union and the United Kingdom that duties imposed on imported Maldivian tuna would be reduced.

However, Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Resources Ahmed Shiyam said there had been no indication in the past three months that such a concession would materialise.

“The fishermen are also saying that it’s important that they are paid, even if it means reducing the buying rate to MVR 20. And this change had to be made to save MIFCO,” he said while speaking during the Parliament Question Time on Monday.

Minister Shiyam said the government would have to provide MVR 1.1 billion in subsidies to MIFCO if it were to maintain the buying rate at MVR 25 per kilo for the entire year.

“I still do not believe that the change made by the then government between the first round of voting and the second round of voting was done in good faith. It was done without any research, purely for political reasons,” he said.

The minister, answering a question posed by Dhaandhoo MP Yaugoob Abdulla, revealed that MIFCO had disbursed a total of MVR 422 million to fishermen since the Mohamed Muizzu administration took office; however, there remained an outstanding MVR 270 million yet to be paid to fishermen.

Fisheries Minister Shiyam, upon taking office, said that the MVR 25 kilogramme rate was untenable. He had then committed to, via consultations with stakeholders, lower the price — while President Muizzu had set a floor price for the reduction at ‘not below MVR 20.’