With the mad rush for fresh fish ahead of the Easter weekend, late sleepers can expect to fork out a lot more to prepare their Cape Malay-style pickled fish. Fishmongers have already nearly doubled their prices.
A Western Cape fish walker, Fahiem Shields, tells Food For Mzansi that people have become used to paying more for fish during the Easter and December holidays. What many people do not know, however, is that prices depend on the size of the fishermen’s catch.
Here, in the Strand, a snoek will easily set you back anything from R150 to R350, depending on who you buy it from.
“Today, it can be cheap and then tomorrow it can be very expensive. If the fishermen catch a small number of fish, then the prices go up, but when there’s a sizeable catch prices decrease,” Shields explains.
Fish prices change overnight
Rhoda’s Fish owner Yazied Rhoda agrees that the availability of fresh fish remains the only factor that can bring prices down.
He explains that at the harbour, when the boats come in, fishermen operate like auctioneers.
When the boats arrive, the buyer has to shout how much he is willing to pay. If the fishmonger is not willing to accept a fisherman’s price, he simply walks away empty-handed. No questions asked.
Rhoda says, “Yesterday (earlier this week) the starting price was between R75 to R110. Today the price started at R170 and went to R210. So, you see, it’s always better if the ships come back full, otherwise the same fish from the same fisherman will cost you more. The price can change overnight.”
Despite his best efforts to keep prices low for his customers, Rhoda says this is not easy.
“At the end of the day, I still have to pay my workers, cover my diesel and other business expenses. To be honest, I don’t walk away with much at the end of the day. But it’s passion I love what I do.”
Easter market research
Meanwhile, just two kilometres further Ralph Adams sells his fresh snoek and yellow tale to beachgoers.
Adams says in the run-up to Easter, they get very busy as customers prepare their pickled fish for the Easter weekend. Snoek, yellow tale and silver fish are usually popular during this season, and are his best sellers.
“When it comes to Easter, we are prepared a month in advance. We do our research first. What type of fish do the people want because the demand never stays the same,” he says.
Depending on what day it is, Adams’ fish prices range from between R150 to R190 per two kilogram. That works out to R70 and R90 more than what he bought it for from the fishermen.
“I’ve been selling my fish here for 15 years already. It all depends on the weather because the ships only go out when it is good weather. During winter there’s not much happening. Other than that, it is relative,” he says.