After lockdown blues, dried fish industry buzzing again

After a lull of about six months due to Covid, the dried fish industry of Dublar Char in the Sundarbans is buzzing again.

Dried fish, popularly known as shutki, has a storage life of several months and is considered a delicacy not only in Bangladesh but also in many countries where it’s exported. Dried fish is inextricably associated with the overpowering smell that emanates when being cooked.

For many fishermen families on Dublar Char, the dried fish sector is one of the main sources of livelihood. Though 20% of the total fish catch is sun dried round the year in Bangladesh, the substantial production takes place from November to March.

During a recent visit to Dublar Char, this correspondent found that hundreds of fishermen were busy setting up their boats at the crack of dawn and returning with loads of catch after a few hours.

UNB also came across several makeshift houses on the char built to accommodate those involved in dry fish processing. Loitta, churi, chingri, rupchanda, khalisha, vheda and poa were some of the varieties being processed on the island.

This correspondent also came across temporary fishermen colonies in the coastal areas of Maheralir Khal, Alorkol, Majherchar, Afcikollo, Narikelbaria, Manki khali, Safra Khali and Shallarchar under Sharankhola range of the Sundarbans.

Fishermen we met said the coronavirus outbreak had dealt a severe blow to dry fish trade on the island. They claimed to have struggled to sell their produce due to the pandemic until a few months back and the cancellation of the traditional rush mela was a double whammy.

Khan Jahan Ali, a fisherman, said, “I came to Dublar Char in the Bengali month of Kartik

and returned in Chaitra. We went to the estuary of the sea and caught fish and then kept it under the sun for drying.”

Dube Biswas, a dry fish trader, said the demand for the dried fish of Dublar Char “is high in the local markets and hence taken to Chattogram, Syedpur and other districts”.

However, this year, the price of dry fish has come down due to the pandemic — one mound of Loitta dry fish now costs Tk 10,000-12,000, while the price of big Chuti is around Tk 30-35 thousand per mound and small Chuti Tk 38,000 a mound.

Similarly, one mound of Rupchanda (big size) costs around Tk 80,000 while the price of its small size is nearly Tk 40,000. Chingri shutki (big size) is being sold at Tk 44,000 a mound and its small size Tk 24,000 a mound.

Golam Mostafa, a dry fish trader, said “I purchased dry fish from Dublar Char and supplied it to the Syedpur, Rangpur and Chattogram wholesale markets. But this year, the price of dry fish has come down due to coronavirus.”

According to sources at the Sundarbans east zone, the government has set a revenue target of Tk 3.20 crore from the dry fish sector this financial year. Surprisingly, in the last fiscal, the target was Tk 3.17 crore.

Source: United News of Bangladesh