Local divers are disappointed in the minimum purchase price for the local market released recently by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.

Divers claim the new purchase price is almost half of what divers used to supply the local market.

“We used to get over SBD$1,000 per kg for high value Bechedemer like white teeth, the new price is SBD$400 per kg,” stated Fred, a 38-year-old diver from the province.

“This is big drop, and we are just disappointed because the cost to dive and bring to Honiara is quite high now.

“When we heard that a minimum price will be set by the ministry for local purchase, we were happy because we felt they will give us a good and fair price.

“But the opposite has happened, the biggest beneficiary is the foreigner who will export the product.”

A spokesman for the ministry says that the price reflects current global demand – said to be low because of the pandemic.

“And it is not that much of a difference to when we first lifted the ban in 2019, and this is the minimum price.

“Divers and buyers are always willing to negotiate, so the price that we have set is the starting point of such negotiations.”

The Bechedemer are categorised in three groups namely 24 species in the high value group, 11 species in Medium Value group and 13 in low value group.

Despite the explanation given, Fred insists that from what he knows, many of these exporters will just purchase and stockpile and wait for the international price to rise.

“They will wait, and send their container when the price goes up, they will just stockpile and wait.”

He says that when such announcements are made by the ministry of fisheries, they should inform the public on the reasons behind their pricing decisions.

The current purchase price in the Asian market for mid to high value Bechedemer species is between USD$120-USD$385 per kilo, or SBD$960-SBD$3080 per kilo.

Bechedemer have been used as a food source and medicinal ingredient in Asian and Middle Eastern countries for centuries.

These slug-like animals are used either fresh or dried in various dishes, though the dried form is by far, the most commonly used.

Dried Bechedemer is rehydrated and added to recipes like soups, stews, and stir-fries. Sea cucumbers can also be eaten raw, pickled, or fried.