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Restaurant biz recovering from Formalin scare

A number of restaurants in Goa are able to get supply of locally sourced fish, which is helping them in restoring their business to some sort of normalcy after the trade was very badly hit due to Formalin scare. The Goan Everyday spoke to a number of restaurateurs to know the ground reality.

06th August 2018, 04:42 Hrs

Karan Sehgal 

On July 18, when Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar, had announced a ban on the import of fish in Goa from other parts of India, restaurants all over the state braced for a really hard time. Quite justifiably so because not only is fish almost synonymous with food in Goa but even tourists come to the state looking forward to have all sorts of seafood.

Till the end of July, restaurants had a really tough time because of the Formalin issue, which had resulted in ban on import of fish, had scared people so much that restaurant owners in many cases chose not to sell fish to their customers. 

Fortunately for both restaurants and people at large, the ban on fishing came to an end on July 31, which helped in significantly increasing the supply of locally sourced fish. 

Amey Naik, owner of Peep Kitchen in Taleigao, said, “We are getting decent quantities of fish thanks to fresh catch. We are able to source pomfret, red snapper and mackerel from local fishermen itself. People are not as scared of consuming fish today as they were only a few days ago. We are able to sell our fish thali also.”

Peep Kitchen’s fish-thali is extremely famous and the fact that locally sourced fish is available in the market did relieve Naik of almost a crisis like situation he was facing earlier, when fish had almost  disappeared.

Before the situation became somewhat normal due to resumption of local fishing, Naik had reported close to 30% drop in seafood sales at his restaurant, as people were scared to eat fish and the government had banned the import of fish from outside.

Effectively, there were two bans in force between July 18 and July 31 – one on ban on fishing and the other on importing fish from other states into Goa. Both these bans had drastically reduced the supply of fish and seafood in the state.

The impact of both these bans was felt more on restaurants on the beach side than in city areas of the state. Alka D’Souza runs a very popular restaurant called ‘Foxes Fiesta’ in Calangute. 

Around July 31, D’Souza was dealing with a very tough situation at hand, as she had said, “We have noticed an 80% drop in seafood business ever since Formalin issue came into being. 70% of our clientele is fish-eating. The seafood orders have dropped, as people have moved to other meats like chicken.”

In the next few days after July 31, the situation had improved for D’Souza, but only marginally. She said, “The bigger varieties of fish are still not available in the market. When a tourist comes to Goa, he comes to eat that big piece of kingfish, which is not only big but is also very easy to eat. The difference between city clientele and beach side clientele is that the city clientele being Goan consumes even small fish but the beach side clientele is a tourist, who wants only big fish.” 

D’Souza is now hoping that the removal of ban on import of fish from other states will help her in sourcing bigger varieties of fish as well. Meanwhile, the State Government has allowed import of fish from outside provided traders get themselves registered with Food-and-Drugs-Administration (FDA) for this purpose.

In the meanwhile, few hotels even reported that their trusted vendors supplied them with only locally sourced fish, which helped them in sailing through tough times in the second half of July when fish import was banned.

Sujit Kumar Kushwaha, executive assistant manager (E.A.M), food & beverages, Royal Orchid Beach Resort & Spa in Utorda, said, “We were really not affected due to Formalin scare because we have our trusted vendors, who gave us fish sourced from Goa itself. We are not getting fish from suppliers, who import it. And, if big fish is not available locally, we don’t sell it.”

A number of other restaurants said that things improved for them from the time fishing started on August 1. Mayur Dhond, owner, Edward’s Yard in Goa-Velha, said, “After fishing re-commenced post the ban, the market is a lot better because we are able to get fresh fish locally. The price of fish has gone up by 10-20% because the overall supply is limited. We have to absorb the price increase because we are not on beach side, where passing cost increase to consumers (who are tourists) is a lot easier.”

Deepak Mhadeshri, owner of a restaurant in Tivim, said, “Ever since the fishing ban was lifted, we are able to get mackerels, chonak and baby kingfish in the market. Overall the situation has improved but still I’m not able to get the total fish requirement of my restaurant. Our customers are not asking for fish, as they eat chicken.” 

The situation has clearly improved for restaurants but still full recovery will take some time. For example, the government has given 15 days to the traders to get registered with the FDA for importing fish.  

Based on this, sources said it will take some more time to go back to total normalcy where all kinds of fish will be available to restaurants. But, even otherwise, it appears that the worst of Formalin scare for the restaurants is over. However, restaurateurs will have to be still careful before sourcing fish to prevent it from having anything harmful to the health of consumers.

Restaurant owners breathe easy as local 

As fishing ban ended on July 31, local fishermen started making mackerels, chonak, baby kingfish, pomfret and red snapper available to the restaurants.  

Due to this, restaurant owners managed to get their business back on track to some extent. However, big varieties of fish, which are imported from other states, are still not available in Goa in large quantities.  

Few restaurateurs even said that people are not as scared to consume fish as they were before. This is because they could assure the consumers that fish being served was sourced locally.  

Restaurants in city areas are performing better because locals don’t mind eating locally sourced fish even if it is small in size.  

But, tourists prefer big fish, which restaurants in the beach areas are finding it tough to provide to them.    

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