Sat, 02 Dec 2023

By Ujjwal RoyKolkata (West Bengal) [India], September 24 (ANI): Days after the Bangladesh Government permitted traders to sell nearly 4,000 metric tonnes of Hilsa fish to India, the imports are likely to fall due to "fish catching ban."The Fish Importers' Association here on Saturday alleged that the government of the neighbouring country will not export more than 1,000 metric tonnes of 'Poddar Ilish' as a "fish catching ban" is to be implemented there with effect from October 12.

Indian fish traders can import up to 3,950 metric tonnes of Hilsa from Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government allowed the import of Hilsa fish during Durga Puja after receiving a request from the Fish Importers Association.

Syed Anwar Maqsood, Secretary Fish Importers' Association said that on the same day, the Bangladesh Commerce Ministry allowed the export of the silver crop top of water, an annual fish-catching ban was announced by Bangladesh's fishing department, which has reduced the import window by 18 days.

"On September 20, the Bangladesh Commerce Ministry issued a notice (to export Hilsa fish till October 30). We had 40 days to import Hilsa. On the same day, Bangladesh's fishing department announced the annual fish caching ban, which will be implemented with effect from October 12. This means that we have only 22 days, instead of 40," Maqsood said.

"I am sure that a maximum 700-800 metric tonnes or 1000 metric tonnes to an extent Hilsa can be imported in these 22 days and not more than that," he added.

Bangladesh Commerce Ministry on Wednesday gave its nod to 79 business organisations to export 3,950 metric tonnes of Hilsas to India.

The exporters would be able to export 50 metric tonnes of Hilsas each.

This order will remain valid till October 30, according to the official release by the Sheikh Hasina administration.

Maqsood, while speaking to ANI, said that this is not the first time that the Bangladesh government will export fewer metric tonnes of Bengalis' favourite delicacy as compared to what was promised.

"This happened last year too. (When) they promised us 2900 metric tonnes. But we could import only 1300 metric tonnes," he said.

"We have written a letter to the Commerce Ministry, Bangladesh and Deputy High Commission to allow us to import fish after the fishing ban is relaxed on November 2," he added.

According to the Secretary of the Fish Importers' Association, on September 21, a day after the notification was issued, the first consignment of 70 metric tonnes of Hilsa reached India.

"On Friday, the borders were closed, and on Saturday 50 metric tonnes of Hilsa reached Indian shores," he added.

However, the First Secretary (Commercial) at the Deputy High Commission of Bangladesh, MD Shamsul Arif, told ANI that the 3950 MT Hilsa have already reached the Bangladesh border and will reach the Indian market in a few days.

"It has already come to our Bangladesh border and the necessary documents are going to be submitted, hopefully, by today or tomorrow morning, it will be reaching the Indian market," he said.

Arif said that the Bangladesh government is focussing on "completing" the export of 3950 MT Hilsa and more consignment would be "considered" only after the promised quantity of Hilsas are delivered.

Meanwhile, the Padma Hilsa also arrived in Howrah, India's biggest wholesale fish market.

Observing that the prices of the Padma Hilsa are driven by market forces -- demand and supply -- Maqsood said that fish lovers should pray that in Bangladesh, the landing of Hilsa is more so that the Bengalis' favourite delicacy is imported more.

"When the supply is more, the rates will go down," he added.

The Secretary of the Fish Importers' body said that the secondary aim to import more is because the Hilsa is to satisfy the connoisseurs of Hilsa across the country.

"We are (also) looking to import the most out of the 3950 MT Hilsa as the fish is to be distributed in many states like Tripura, Assam, Delhi, Telangana and others from Howrah fish market," he added.

The national fish of Bangladesh, Hilsa is one of the country's export items that come with the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. The Hilsa from Bangladesh's Padma and Meghna rivers as well as Chandpur, where the two rivers intersect, has long been prized by Hilsa connoisseurs as among the tastiest of fishes.

In 2020, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during the latter's visit to Kolkata, to consider lifting the ban on the export of Hilsas to India.

However, Hasina said for her country to lift the curbs on the export of Hilsa, which tops the cravings of the fish-loving Bengalis, India should first ensure a fair share of water from the Teesta River of North Bengal to the neighbouring country.

The decision of Bangladesh to send fish to India ahead of the festive season over the past few years is considered a part of diplomacy as the neighbouring country has been a part of the Teesta water-sharing treaty with India. (ANI)

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