Padma ilish bids adieu this season

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  • Published 6.07.07

The Bangladesh government on Wednesday put paid to hopes of meeting the increasing demand for ilish in Calcutta households by banning the export of the fish to India for the next six months.

“The primary reason for the ban is the significant rise in the price of hilsa in our market,” said Sheikh Qamrul Hassan, the first secretary (commercial) in the Bangladesh deputy high commission.

A kg of hilsa costs Taka 1,200 (Rs 720 approximately) in Bangladesh, he pointed out. In Calcutta markets, hilsa costs Rs 450 to Rs 500 per kg.

As a major part of the catch is being sent across to India, there is a crisis of hilsa in the Bangladesh market, resulting in the “abnormal” price hike. The ban on export is aimed at tackling the crisis, explained Hassan.

“The price discrepancy has almost doubled in our local markets and we need to sort it out first,” he said.

The ban may trigger a crisis in Bengal, too, as more than 80 per cent of the hilsa consumed in the state is imported from Bangladesh. Fish-lovers on this side of the border will have to settle for the local harvest netted in Diamond Harbour and Kolaghat.

“What is the monsoon without ilish from the Padma on our plates?” asked Krishnendu Das, a businessman who is an avid fish-lover. “The local variety is small and does not taste half as good,” he rued.

The impact of the ban was felt on Day I, when not a single truckload of hilsa could make it to the Howrah Fish Market on Thursday.

“Ten trucks were to enter via the Petrapole border . They were called back on Thursday,” said Syed Anwar Maqsood, secretary of the Hilsa and Varieties Fish Importers Association. “We have decided to write to the chief minister to intervene.”

But hilsa-lovers of Calcutta need not lose heart, said Hassan. The ban is temporary and will be lifted as soon as the interests of the Bangladeshi consumers are taken care of.

“The ban is part of a fact-finding act by our government to know why the fish is priced higher in our country, when it is available cheaper in India even after clearing the customs duty. Once we ensure that Bangladeshis, too, have the fish at a reasonable price, the ban will be lifted,” signed off Hassan.