Fish egg business has become the means for many people in Lakshmipur to be self-reliant as the district produces egg worth about Tk50 crore every year, according to the local fisheries office.
However, local egg farmers and traders claim that the market is much bigger which exceeds Tk100 crore.
They say around 5,000-7,000 people in the district are employed in this sector in government and non-government hatcheries, fish nurseries and farms.
Lakshmipur Fisheries Office said that last year 63,000 tonnes of fish were produced in the district. Of them, 42,000 tonnes were carp fishes. All these carp fishes were produced from eggs traded in the district.
Mir Shibbir Ahmed is one of the top fish nursery traders in Lakshmipur. In 2010, he set up Ayon Agro Fisheries on three acres of land in Torabganj village of Kamalnagar. Over the past three years, he has transformed his farm into a fish egg nursery. He brings 3-4 days old egg from different hatcheries and sells them when they become 12-15 cm long.
Shibbir sells 10-15 native species and eight species of carp egg. Farmers from other districts also come to his nursery to collect egg.
"I sold about one million carp egg last year. There are 5-6 workers in my nursery. Excluding all expenses, I earn about Tk50,000 per month," he said.
Md Yusuf from Raipur upazila of the district has been involved in the hatchery business for 30 years. He sold 300kg of egg last year despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said, "About 10 million fishes are produced every year from the egg sold from my hatchery. There are six more hatcheries in my area."
Fazr Ali Agro Complex was built on 20 acres of land in Char Mansa village of Sadar upazila. There are 11 big ponds in the complex. About 5-6 lakh eggs are released in these ponds every year. Fazr Ali, the owner of the agro complex, collects these egg from local nurseries. He said that he buys egg worth Tk10 lakh every year.
According to sources, about 3,000 kg of egg is produced every year in different government and private hatcheries in Lakshmipur. About one lakh fish are produced from per kg egg. The price of per kg egg is between Tk2,000 to Tk10,000 depending on the species. Nursery owners collect egg from the hatcheries and after rearing them for some time, sell them to farmers.
Md Shahjahan works as an announcer who uses a loudspeaker to advertise for egg traders. He said, "Farmers come to collect egg after learning the information via the advertisements. The trading season for fish egg goes from April to September."
Md Abdus Salam, a worker of the District Truck Owners' Association, said, "An average of 30 trucks of egg come to Lakshmipur from different districts every day during the monsoon. Many traders come here from other districts to sell egg."
Most of the traders who come here to sell egg are from Cumilla, Chattogram, Chandpur and Laksam. They sell egg worth several crores of taka every season, said Haji Alauddin, a egg trader.
There are two government fish breeding and training centres, nine listed hatcheries and 101 fish nurseries in the district for fish egg production. However, there are at least 500 more fish nurseries in the district outside the official enrollment, said Shibbir Ahmed, a egg trader.
Raipur Fish Breeding and Training Centre is the largest among the 76 government hatcheries in the country.
Wahidur Rahman Majumder, senior scientific officer of the centre, said, "Raipur Fish Breeding Centre produced 1,053 kg of egg and 18 lakh fishes this year. A large portion of the country's carp fish demand is met from Raipur hatchery. The breeding centre has 75 ponds and 11,000 kg of mother fishes. Most of the mother fishes here are collected from Halda and Jamuna rivers."
District Fisheries Officer Billal Hossain said there are 34,125 listed fish farmers and 8,017 hectares of water bodies in Lakshmipur.
Last year, 21,000 tonnes of hilsa fish were also collected from the Meghna River. Besides, shrimp egg worth Tk600 crore is extracted from Meghna every year.