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9 June, 2019 12:54:11 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 9 June, 2019 09:15:29 AM
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Dry fish gains popularity abroad

SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS, Ctg
Dry fish gains popularity abroad

Dry fish is one of the main delicacies of the Chittagong region. Traditional dry fish preparations are quite popular across the country. Bangladeshi dry fish is now being exported to the UK, the US, and the Middle East.

The Department of Fisheries says it has adopted new and hygienic methods of drying and preserving fish, thereby contributing to its growing popularity abroad.

“If fishermen preserve dry fish by adopting the new methods and without using harmful chemicals, the taste of fish would remain intact. This is making dry fish more popular among all classes of people,” said Cox's Bazar district fisheries officer FM Khalequzzaman.

“After removing fish intestines, fishermen are now mixing turmeric and pepper. It is very hygienic and keeps the quality of dry fish unchanged. Moreover, these preservatives keep insects away. We keep a close eye on the whole process to ensure that no harmful chemical is added,” he told The Independent.

The devices for drying fish have already changed. Fishermen are now using solar dryers, ropes and bamboo scaffolds, he added.

Businessmen said people in Chattogram, Feni, Comilla, Brahamanbaria, Dhaka, Sylhet, Kisorganj, Sayedpur, Rangpur and Munshiganj districts were the main consumers of dry fish in the country. Rajshahi and Khulna have fewer consumers of dry fish, they added.

Politan Barua, proprietor of M/S Dipul Kanti Barua in Asadgonj, told The Independent: “The numbers of people consuming dry fish are increasing because it is very tasty. It is even becoming popular in Europe, the US and the Middle East.”

He said fishermen these days did not apply harmful chemicals as preservatives because the number of cold storages had gone up.  

"This sector has huge potential to earn foreign exchange. But its progress is slow because of lack of government patronage. The sector should be given the status of an industry. Loan interest rates for businessmen in this sector should made single digit as in the case of the industrial sector," he added.

According to the Asadgonj Dry Fish Merchant Association (ADFMA), dry fish worth Tk. 300 crore is exported from Chattogram each year. The export volume is increasing with time.

Local production is unable to meet the growing domestic and international demand for dry fish. To fill the gap, dry fish is being imported from India, Myanmar and Pakistan. About 60 per cent of the demand is being fulfilled from imports, while only 40 per cent is met by local production.

Dry fish merchants said greater government attention to this sector could help double the local production. This sector too earn lots of foreign currency. Besides, this sector can create jobs. Currently, about one million people are directly involved in this field.

Jamal Hossain, joint secretary of the Asadgonj Dry Fish Merchant Association (ADFMA), told The Independent: “During the peak season from October to March, the daily transaction volume of dry fish is about Tk. 50 crore in the country’s largest wholesale market here. In the lean season from April to September, the transaction volume is Tk. 10–15 crore daily. At present, the country’s dry fish demand is 65,000–75,000 MT.”

“In Asadganj, there are 50 warehouses, 250 wholesale merchants, 50 retails merchants and 10 exporters. In total, 3,000 permanent people are constantly engaged in the trade of dry fish in the country’s largest wholesale market,” he added.

Now, dry fish is being exported to the UK, the US, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE because of its high demand among Bangladeshi expatriates in those countries. For exporting dry fish, about 100 large and small dry fish export processing units have been set up in fish-processing areas, particularly the coastal areas and islands like Rangabali, Sonadia, Kutubdia, Talpatti, St Martin’s, Teknaf, Banshkhali, Anwara, Moheshkhali and Cox’s Bazar.

From these places dry fish enter the local market. Different exporters directly export dry fish worth over Tk. 200 crore each year. Dry fish is worth Tk. 150 crore is exported from the Chattogram Asadgonj wholesale market every year.

There are 30–35 varieties of dried fish in the market. The most popular ones are Chinese pomfret (Rupchanda), Indian salmon (Lakkha), Ribbon fish (Chhuri), Bombay duck (Loitta) and shrimp. At the same time, to meet the local demand, Bangladesh has to import Ribbon fish, Bombay duck, Pabda, and Corica (Kachki) from India; Chinese pomfret and ribbon fish from Pakistan; and Corica and Ribbon fish from Myanmar.

Of the imported dried fish, which accounts for 60 per cent of the supplies, 70 per cent comes from India, while 30 per cent is from Pakistan and Myanmar.

Businessmen, however, expressed their concern over the future prospect of the dry fish business. The county’s dry fish production is falling and fishermen are changing their profession due to the long ban on fishing imposed to help proper spawning.

“The goverbment said this ban was for spawning. But fishermen lead a miserable hand-to-mouth existence during that period,” said Jamal Hossain.

“Pollution and climate change are contaminating the sea water. Consequently, the production of fish is falling,” he added.

He also said that foreign vessels discharged wastes at sea within Bangladesh territory owing to lax vigilance. Moreover, fishing trawlers of neighbouring countries enter Bangladesh’s territorial waters to catch fish, he noted.

“Fish production would increase if the government prevents these two things and there would be no need to import. Moreover, we will be able to export more dry fish,” he said.

He also blamed the process of catching shrimp fries for the destruction of thousands of fish. He said that in order to collect shrimp fries, the collectors killed over 100,000 fries of different species. This practice should be banned in the coastal areas, he demanded.

FM Khalequzzaman said: “We are suffering from manpower shortage. We need more manpower to maintain a strong vigil.”

He, however, said the fishing ban was helping proper spawning for main fishes. The good effect is already being felt, he added.

He observed that the production had increased in 2018 to 250,000 MT from about 200,000 in 2017 in Cox’s Bazar. In 2019, marine and freshwater fish production will also increase, he expressed hope.

He said people were cultivating fish in the country more than ever before.  The conservation and adoption of new methods have led to increased fish production, said FM Khalequzzaman.

He urged that more people should campaign for conservation so that fish production could increase further.  

Bangladesh Coast Guard sources said that they suffered from manpower and patrol boat shortage to conduct more search and rescue operations. Moreover, they do not have any technology or training to tackle pollution caused by foreign vessels.    

When contacted, Capt. M Washim Maksud told The Independent: “We patrol the areas where fishermen usually catch fish. We will receive more patrol boats soon. Increasing fish production is team work. For this, the goodwill of the trawler owners is essential.”

EA/SI

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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