Weeks ahead of the Durga Puja, the Government of Bangladesh has allowed export of about 3,950 Metric Tonnes (MT) of Hilsa Fish to India.
Ministry of Commerce, Bagaladesh in an order issued on Wednesday said that 79 fish exporters from the country have been given permission to export 50 tonnes of the fish each to India. The permission for export is valid till October 30.
Making an exemption on its blanket ban of Hilsa Fish export, Bangladesh has been allowing Hilsa export every year since 2019, during the puja season. The number of fish exported has grown from 500 MT in 2019 to 3,950 in 2023.
The first shipment of the fish reached markets in Kolkata on Thursday evening, Syed Anwar Maqsood, the secretary of Fish Importers Association said.
Mr. Maqsood said that it was difficult to import such a large amount of fish in the usual 20-30 days and urged the Bangladesh High Commission to give at least 60 days time. “Despite the permission given for the export of 2,900 MT Hilsa fish in September last year, only 1,300 MT could be shipped due to the lack of time,” he said
Mr. Maqsood also pointed out that catching of Hilsa fish in Bangladesh will be prohibited for several days in the window provided for the export, which effectively gives the traders only 22 days to bring 3,950 MT of Hilsa to India.
Before 2012, when there were no restrictions on the import of Hilsa fish, about 5,000 MT of Hilsa fish was exported to India. The Fish Importers Association has been demanding that Bangladesh remove the restrictions on the export of Hilsa fish.
The Hilsa fish is considered a delicacy breed in the Gangetic Delta. The yield of the fish in West Bengal has fallen sharply over the past few decades from 80,000 tones in 2001 to 11,000 in 2021. Experts have blamed overfishing for the sharp decline.
The decision of Bangladesh to send fish to India ahead of the festive season over the past few years is considered a part of diplomacy as the neighbouring country has been a part of the Teesta water sharing treaty with India.
Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina in September 2022 during a diplomatic reception in Delhi had said that, “You [India] aren’t giving us enough water, so I can’t give you Hilsa fish right now”. The Prime Minister, however, promised that she will be able to supply Hilsa by the upcoming Puja season.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has publicly expressed reservations against sharing of Teesta water.