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Fish importers seek 60-day window to get Bangla hilsa

Fish that arrive from Bangladesh now is usually a Puja gift from that country

Kinsuk Basu | Published 03.09.23, 05:57 AM
Hilsa fish

Hilsa fish

An association of fish importers from the city have appealed to the deputy high commissioner of Bangladesh to offer at least 60 days to import the hilsa that the country offers to Bengal every Puja as a gift instead of the 20-30 odd days.

They also want Bangladesh to lift the export ban on hilsa to India.


The fish that arrive from Bangladesh now is usually a Puja gift from that country.

In a letter to Andalib Elias, the deputy high commissioner in Kolkata, the association said that last September Bangladesh had gifted 2,900 tonnes of hilsa to Bengal ahead of Durga Puja but only 1,300 tonnes could be sent within the specified time.

“We would request you to please give (a) sufficient time frame of at least 60 days instead of the usual 20/30 days time since such a huge quantity cannot be exported in this small time frame,” the letter reads.

Apart from the deputy high commissioner, a copy of the letter has been also sent to Shamsul Arif, first secretary, commercial, at the deputy high commission of Bangladesh in Kolkata.

Hilsa or ilish has remained at the centre of a raging gastronomic debate on either side of Bengal across the borders. While the produce of the Padma in Bangladesh has been hailed as the best, hilsa lovers on this side of the border have always aspired
for a catch from the Hooghly — Ganga-r ilish, as they would say.

“Throughout the year hilsa lovers across Bengal wait for this gift from Bangladesh, particularly ahead of the Pujas. But it becomes slightly frustrating to find that just about half of the total sanctioned quantity could be exported within the specified time last year,” said Syed Anwar Maqsood, secretary of the West Bengal Fish Importer’s Association.

“We, therefore, appeal that let the export be carried out over a sufficient time span so that the entire consignment reaches Bengal.”

Members of the association pointed out that while 1,300 tonnes of hilsa out of 2,900 tonnes could be exported last year during the Pujas owing to shortage of time, in 2021, just about 1,200 tonnes of hilsa out of the assigned 4,600 tonnes had reached Bengal.

Bangladesh has been gifting hilsa to Bengal every Puja since 2019 when it started with an export clearance of 500 tonnes of Hilsa.

“The paucity of full-grown hilsa from the Ganges is now being met with imports from Myanmar in the markets across Kolkata,” said Subol Das, a fish retailer in Gariahat.

“These are no match to the ones from Bangladesh.”

The production of hilsa in Bengal has dwindled from around 80,000 tonnes in 2001 to around 11,000 tonnes in 2021, largely because of excess of small-fish fishing in the Bay of Bengal. “If small-sized hilsa is caught, then the process of creating a stock is hindered,” said Asim Kumar Nath, who has been studying the migration of the hilsa at Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University.

“The hilsa fish breed in the confluence of the Bay and the Hooghly river and the smaller hilsa start their return journey towards the sea after reaching a weight of 60gm,” Nath said.

The association has appealed that Bangladesh lift the ban on hilsa export that has been in place since 2012.

A senior Bangladesh deputy high commission official in Kolkata said on Saturday: “We receive such appeals almost every year and we forward it to the ministry of commerce in Dhaka with a favourable recommendation.”

Last updated on 03.09.23, 05:57 AM

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