Dried fish (called shutki in Bangla) traders in the northern region of Bangladesh have suffered huge financial losses this year due to Covid-19's effects, floods, rain, and Cyclone Amphan - losses traders across the country have never incurred. The existence of dried fish business is under threat as the supply of fish to local markets has declined in the last 10 years.
Most industry insiders believe the market for dried fish, locally known as shutki, started shrinking two decades ago. The government clamped down on fish import through illegal ways in the 1990s, but it did not correct or make easy the legal ways of fish or dried fish import. It affected the sector badly.
Besides, pirates are a big threat to the dried fish sector. There is a serious risk for fishermen of being attacked by pirates when they go fishing in deep sea. The sector along with the local fish markets suffers from it.
Traders said demand for local dried fish is high on domestic and foreign markets. Due to a shortage of production in the country, traders have to import dried fish from India and Myanmar. Dried fish is found in different names and sizes. Dried pomfret is the costliest and sells at Tk 2,500 a kg in the market.The business has made a strong position in the economy as it has its appearance both on international and local markets. But no governments have paid enough attention to the sector, traders said.Most industry insiders believe the market for dried fish, locally known as shutki, started shrinking two decades ago.
Traders said demand for local dried fish is high on domestic and foreign markets. Due to a shortage of production in the country, traders have to import dried fish from India and Myanmar. Dried fish is a delicious dish among Bangladeshis abroad. Dried fish can earn huge foreign currency for Bangladesh, as it has become a lucrative product in international markets, he added.
Traders said dried fish is popular among the people of all classes. The poor could afford it as its price was comparatively low in the past. But now the prices have gone so high that they hardly can afford it. Local traders said pirates harm the sector a lot. Now fishermen are not keen to go fishing in the sea that eventually worsens the fish crisis. "
There is no arrangement to ensure security for deep-sea fishing," said a supplier, preferring not to be named. He came from Cox's Bazar to Asadganj to take some orders of fish for making dried fish.Generally storeowners place their orders with the suppliers to bring fish from different areas, including Cox's Bazar, Moheshkhali, Teknaf, St Martin's, Kutubdia, Rangadia, Baishdia and the Sundarbans.Collecting fish from the sea, the suppliers dry those in the sun and then supply to storeowners. Most of the traders like to import fish and then dry those, said a businessman. "Because the cost of importing dry fish is higher than fresh fish."
The supplier said some fisherman catch mother fishes in the May-June period when they lay eggs. They take the chance of a lack of surveillance and catch the mother fishes, he added. He said the Indian government has deployed coast guards in their territory to stop fishing during the breeding season and the Indian fishermen follow the rule with full respect. Sheikh Mohammad Delwar Hossain, general secretary of the Syedpur Dried Fish Traders Association, said the warehouse traders had lost at least Tk6 crore this year due to natural calamities and the pandemic. "
Of the total losses, 40% were due to Covid-19 and the remaining 60% due to natural disasters," said Delwar Hossain.The dried fish market in Syedpur is the second-largest market of the country, and the dried fish comes from: Chalan Beel, the Sundarbans, Khulna, Jashore, Satkhira, Cox's Bazar, and various northern and southern districts.
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