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Mamata takes up hilsa cause

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 12.07.11

If the price of hilsa tumbles this season, Mamata Banerjee is probably the one you should thank for taking up cudgels on behalf of fish-loving Bengalis.

The “people’s chief minister” has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking him to take steps to bring down the price of hilsa imported from Bangladesh.

In the letter sent on Saturday, Mamata requested Singh to ask the Bangladesh government to lower its minimum export price (MEP) of the fish.

“The chief minister requested the Prime Minister to ask the Bangladesh government to lower the MEP, so that more Bengalis in the state could afford the best hilsa from Padma and Meghna,” said an official of the chief minister’s office.

Fisheries department officials said the MEP in Bangladesh of the best quality hilsa — the ones that weigh more than 1kg — is $12 per kg. The fish that weigh less than a kilogram cost half.

“The best quality hilsa is thus exported at around Rs 550 a kg. By the time it reaches consumers, transportation costs and a profit margin included, it costs around Rs 700 per kg,” said an official.

The price of hilsa weighing less than a kg each has been ranging from between Rs 350 and Rs 450. A month ago, this was around Rs 500 per kilo.

The Bangaldesh government has imposed the MEP to ensure a fair price for the country’s fishermen.

“That is why the chief minister has written to the Prime Minister. If the MEP could be lowered by a couple of dollars for the best variety, consumers would have to pay around Rs 100 less per kg,” the official told Metro.

According to government estimates, Calcutta consumes more than 100 tonnes of hilsa every day between July and September, on an average. Of this, 70 per cent is from Bangladesh, said a fisheries official.

This season, around 20 truckloads of hilsa have been crossing over to the state daily. Each truck carries around 300kg of hilsa.