The abundant catch of Hilsha this season has pushed the Ministry of Fisheries to consider withdrawal of the ban and export on the item, especially neighbouring India.
An official of the Department of Fisheries (DoF) said, “We have high hopes that the Hilsha fish production is going to reach 5.5 lakh tonnes.”
“We have proposed to resume export of the fish to West Bengal because of the huge demand,” the official added.
State Minister for Fisheries and Livestock Narayan Chandra Chanda told newsmen that the Prime Minister has already been notified of the proposal to withdraw the export ban of Hilsha.
He said the commerce ministry will take the decision about the export ban with permission from the Prime Minister.
The scarcity of Hilsha and subsequently its unusual price hike in 2012 had forced Bangladesh to restrict its export to all countries, including India.
Since the ban was imposed, India has been lobbying strongly to lift the ban on the fish, which has a very high demand in India, particularly in West Bengal.
The price of Hilsha is now within the reach of the masses. At present, the fish weighing 500-700gm sells for Tk 500-800. Hilsha, weighing about 1kg, sells for Tk 1,000-1,200. Larger sizes of the fish are priced around Tk 2,000.
According to a report from Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), the price of one kilogram of Hilsha has dropped by 16.67 per cent from last year.
Sources at the Ministry of Fisheries and Animal Resources informed that a total of 7,540 mobile court and 33,635 drives had taken place from 2011 to 2016 to prevent the illegal fishing of Hilsha. The courts fined unscrupulous fishermen a total of Tk 18.22 crore for catching mother Hilsha and jatka (Hilsha fry less than 23cm in length). They also filed 6,650 cases, arrested 5,095 fishermen, and confiscated a total of 887.8 million metres of fine fishing net.
ABM Zahid Habib, project director at the Department of Fisheries, said Hilsha production will increase 42 per cent by 2012 after the Development of the Health of Hilsha Fish and Management project is completed. Five Hilsha fish sanctuaries will also be developed under this project in Patuakhali, Shariatpur, Chandpur, Lakshmipur and Bhola.
Fish wholesaler and ABS group Chairman Md Abu Bakkar Siddique told the newsmen that Hilsha production data shown by the Ministry of Fisheries is inaccurate.
“We expect this year’s production to be six lakh tons,” he said.
“We will be self-sufficient in Hilsha when the actual production grows to be eight lakh tonnes per year. The ban on Hilsha imports from Myanmar will greatly benefit local businesses,” he added.
According to World Fish, Hilsha is available in 11 countries, and its production has increased in the last couple of years at a rate of 8-10 per cent annual growth.