Dried fish exports bring nearly Tk 280m home in first half of FY24

Women process dried fish on the bank of Meghna river in Lalpur area of Ashuganj, Brahmanbaria on 18 March 2023.Shahdat Hossain

The activities begin in Asadganj, the largest wholesale market of dried fish in Chattogram, in the morning. Trucks carrying dried fish start arriving at warehouses and shops from different corners of the country. Then dried fish is checked and a portion of dried fish is preserved for exporting aboard.

According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Bangladesh earned about USD 2.55 million or approximately Tk 280m from the export of dried fish in the first six months (July-December) of the 2023-24 fiscal (FY24), with December alone witnessing exports of dried fish worth USD 1.43 million.

Bangladesh exports dried fish mainly to Hong Kong, Singapore, India, South Korea, USA and Thailand.

According to dried fish wholesalers and traders in Asadganj, 70-80 per cent of total export dried fish is supplied from Asadganj. Fish flakes including tails, fins were processed for export in addition to dried fish. This dried fish is exported to various countries in America, the Middle East, East and Southeast Asia.

According to the Department of Fisheries, 15 per cent of total fish production is processed and turned to dried fish. About 4.76 million tonnes of fish were caught from sea and domestic sources in the 2021-22 fiscal year and more than 700,000 tonnes of those fish are used to produce dried fish.

Dried fish is produced in Nazirartek, Sonadia Char and Maheshkhali of Cox’s Bazar, Karnaphuli river bank area of Chattogram city, Anwara upazila of Chattogram, Dublar Char of the Sundarbans, Ibrahimpur of Sunamganj, as well as various coastal areas.

Dried fish of $6.52 million exported annually

Bangladesh exported dried fish worth about USD 71.72 million between the 2012-13 fiscal and the 2022-23 fiscal, with an average export of USD 6.52 million annually. During this period, earnings for the export of dried fish peaked at about USD 8.67 million in the 2017-16 fiscal while the figure dropped to about USD 4.25 million in the 2015-16 fiscal.

Asadganj Dried Fish Traders Association general secretary Osman Haidar told Prothom Alo traders from these areas are not directly involved with exports, but they supply dried fish to exporters. Demand for dried fish from Bangladesh is rising in various countries due to its quality, he added.

Rising fish prices affect dried fish

Dried fish is produced from various sea fish including rupchanda (pomfret), fayssha (scaly hairfin anchovy), lottya (Bombay duck), shrimp and chapila (clupeidae) in the country. It requires two and a half kg to four kg of fish varying depending on the species to produce a kilogram of dried fish.

Prices of raw fish have seen an upward trend in recent years, leading to a rise in the price of dried fish. Traders and exporters said rising prices also affects the export of dried fish.

Traders from Asadganj said many fishermen quit fishing and joined other work. Besides, traders think the sale of raw fish is more profitable than the sale of dried fish since communications have been developed. As a result, fish is exported from India and Myanmar, thus, prices increase, he added.

Chattogram-based RDS International began exporting dried fish in 1999. RDS International managing director Mohamamd Aziz Ullah told Prothom Alo price of dried fish is low in neighbouring countries, resulting in a decline in exports from Bangladesh. Besides, prices of dried fish are also high in the country due to the high price of raw fish. However, there is global demand for dried fish from Bangladesh because of the quality, he added.

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna