Hilsa hurrah in markets

Supply surge triggers price drop

By Kinsuk Basu
  • Published 31.08.17

Aug. 30: A bounty from Odisha has put ilish back on the plate with a price slash to gladden the fish-loving Calcuttan's heart.

A silvery delight weighing between 700 and 800gm was being sold in the Maniktala fish market today for Rs 700, a price drop of Rs 200. In Behala, a fish of the same weight was even cheaper at Rs 650 a kilo. A week ago, anything in this range would sell for Rs 850.

Favourable weather has apparently helped increase the hilsa catch. "The change in wind flow is making hilsa swim upstream into the Hooghly in greater numbers," said Bijan Maity of the Kakdwip Fishermen Welfare Association. "We have around 9,000 trawlers out fishing."

Fish traders could not recall the last time in a decade that such large quantities of hilsa hit Calcutta's retail markets. "Until a week ago, we would be receiving 1 to 1.2 tonnes a day. In the last few days, supply has been around 6 to 7 tonnes a day," said Sanjay Jaiswal of Mondal Biswas & Company, an auctioneer at the Howrah wholesale market.

Supply of hilsa to the wholesale markets in and around Calcutta is largely dependent on the flow from Diamond Harbour, Kakdwip, Namkhana and Digha. What has made the difference this time is supply from parts of Paradip, Balasore, Dhamra and Chandaneswar in Odisha.

In Sealdah, traders said smaller trucks from Odisha carrying around 500kg of different varieties of fish would arrive at the wholesale market every day. The consignment has been entirely hilsa this week, each fish weighing between 350 and 850gm.

Wholesalers are ready with anything between 1,000 and 2,000 kg. "All the freezers are stuffed with hilsa, so don't worry about availability," said Joy Pal Halder, a trader at the Dum Dum fish market.

Not everyone is happy, though. "This is not the season to catch hilsa. It's time for the fish to breed," said marine research scientist Amalesh Chaudhury. "If you continue to catch the smaller ones weighing below 500gm, you are only endangering the population."

Bangladesh has banned catching hilsa weighing below 500gm. A fish takes at least two years to attain that weight. With an average live expectancy of around four years, the fish could weigh up to 2.5kg if it does not end up steamed or fried on someone's plate.