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Mumbai hilsa replaces Bangladesh variety

Raktima Bose

KOLKATA: This silver-scaled fish has been synonymous with Bengali cuisine for ages, so much so that it has come to be identified with Bengali culture as a whole. Hilsa is a part of various rituals and festivities in this part of the country.

Traditionally, hilsa fished from the Padma river of Bangladesh has been a favourite, which often led retailers to pass off hilsa caught from rivers in West Bengal as the Bangladeshi variety.

Of late, however, hilsa fish from Bharuch (Gujarat) and Mumbai has nearly replaced the dwindling Bangladeshi variety over the last three years. “These fishes are bigger and tastes better than the ones available in Bangladesh or Kolaghat in West Bengal,” said Syed Maqsood Anwar, secretary of the Fish Importers’ Association here.

He said five lakh kg of hilsa from Bharuch and Mumbai arrive here every season.

Speaking from Mumbai, Shaukat Aziz, owner of Chand International, a fish exporting company, said, “Hilsa from the Tapti river at Bharuch is of best quality though smaller in size — 700-750 grams on average.” He said big hilsa, weighing around two to two-and-a-half kg are found in the Arabian Sea.

“West Bengal is the biggest consumer of these fish, which are sold at Rs. 350-400 per kg in various Kolkata markets.”

According to Mr. Aziz, around 100 metric tons of hilsa worth Rs. two crore was trucked off to West Bengal from Mumbai in 2007.

He cited excessive harvesting, polluted rivers, and the hike in the minimum export price by Bangladesh as the main reasons for declined supply from West Bengal and Bangladesh.

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