Raktima Bose

Hilsa usually abundant in markets at this time

A kg of imported fish costs Rs. 380 to Rs. 400

KOLKATA: Monsoon is at West Bengal’s doorstep but the ‘hilsa’ from Bangladesh, the Bengali’s culinary delight — usually abundant in the city’s fish markets at this time of the year — is almost absent.

Indian importers are blaming the Bangladesh government for this fish fiasco. According to them, the “exorbitant export rate imposed by the Bangladesh government” is making it impossible for them to import the fish.

“The Bangladesh government has fixed a minimum export price of $6 per kg for exported hilsa. With the value of dollar against rupee increasing almost everyday due to the global recession, each kilogram of such imported fish costs around Rs.380 to Rs.400, which has very few takers in the market,” Atul Chandra Das, president of the West Bengal Fish Importers’ Association, told The Hindu here on Monday.

The issue ensued during the rule of the military government in Bangladesh back in 2007, when export of hilsa to India was stopped for six months. Though it resumed in June 2008, the government imposed a steep minimum export price (MEP) on each kilogram of exported fish.

Syed Anwar Maqsood, owner of Naaz fish company which imports hilsa from Bangladesh, said that the change in government in the neighbouring country had brightened the hope for the price of hilsa being slashed, but nothing came through.

The Fish Importers’ Association last year wrote to the Ministry of External Affairs to take up the matter with the Bangladesh government.

“Last heard, the MEA had forwarded a letter to the Union Ministry of Commerce to take up the issue with the Commerce Secretary of Bangladesh. But nothing else has been communicated to us since,” Mr. Maqsood said.

The Bangladesh government realises an MEP of $6 per kg for fishes weighing 500 gm to 1 kg, $8 for fishes weighing from 1 kg to 1.5 kg and $12 for fishes weighing from 1.5 kg and above.

Mr. Das said: “We want the Bangladeshi government to slash the price to $3 or $4 per kg, which will be on a par with hilsa price in Bangladesh. Or else, we will altogether stop importing hilsa from the country.” The worst sufferer is the common Bengali who is finding it increasingly difficult to taste the hilsa.