Dried fish production in Lalpur, a village renowned for processing dried fish, in Brahmanbaria's Ashuganj, has decreased this season by at least 30% as traders face a scarcity of native fishes and cash crunch.
According to traders, fish traders of Lalpur sell dried fish worth about Tk100 crore every year and supply them to different parts of the country. There are about 300 traders in the village.
Utpal Chandra Das, a dry fish trader, has been in this business for the last 10 years. This season, he is processing fish worth around Tk2 crore. But before the pandemic, he used to produce dried fish worth around Tk4 crore to Tk5 crore.
He incurred losses of at least Tk40 lakh in the last two seasons due to the pandemic. This time, he said, dried fish production declined due to a lack of capital.
Another trader Binod Chandra Das said, "I make a profit of Tk10 lakh to Tk12 lakh from the business every season. Usually, I produce dried fish worth around Tk1.5 crore per season. But this time the production has declined due to the decreased supply of raw fish and their increased prices."
Md Selim Mia, who supplies raw fish to Lalpur, said the supply of fish to Brahmanbaria this year declined, leading to increased prices.
"Besides, the traders could not pay us the dues of the last season. So, raw fish traders are also facing a cash crisis," said Selim Mia.
Tajmahal Begum, Brahmanbaria fisheries officer, mentioned fall in water level in rivers and canals due to insufficient rainfall last year as a reason for the scarcity of raw fish.
Besides, netting of mother fish and fish fries is also responsible for the lower production, she said.
In the last two seasons, traders suffered huge financial losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They did not get full payment for their sold dry fish as yet. As a result, they have been facing a cash crisis. That was why the dry fish traders could not buy raw fish as per the demand, said the traders.
Reduced supply of fish to the markets in Brahmanbaria has increased the price of per kg of fish by Tk30-Tk50.
The price per kilogramme of dried fish would also increase by around Tk70-Tk80 this year due to this reason, traders feared.
Raw fish of different native varieties is bought from different fish markets of Brahmanbaria and the surrounding areas. Then the raw fish is dried and processed on the banks of the Meghna River.
Of the dried fish, 50% are Puti and the remaining 50% are of different varieties of fish.
Currently, dried Puti sells for Tk200-Tk800 per kg in the village, depending on its size and quality.
Besides, dried Tengra fish sells for Tk200-Tk600 per kg, Chanda for Tk400-Tk550, Baim for Tk800-Tk1,500, Kaikka for Tk800-Tk1,500 and Goinna for Tk350-Tk800 per kg.