Fisheries and Livestock Minister Narayan Chandra Chanda today said the government has decided to lift the ban on hilsa export, slapped nearly six years ago, to check the smuggling of the national fish.
“Our hilsa production is increasing gradually and it has a demand in the international market. So we want to allow its export to some extent,” he told a press conference, the first after assuming the charge of the ministry as a cabinet minister last week.
The minister said despite the export ban, hilsa was being smuggled out in various illegal ways prompting the government to revise the decision.
“As a result (of the smuggling), the government is being deprived of revenues. So, if we go for exporting hilsa and once the path towards export is opened up, the hilsa smuggling could be checked,” he said.
The commerce ministry imposed the ban on export of all kinds of fisheries, including hilsa on August 1, 2012. The bar on exporting other fishes, however, was lifted on September 23 the same year but hilsa’s export remained prohibited so far.
Chanda said the big size hilsas currently were largely unavailable in the local market due to the smuggling and so, “we’ve to close down the secret path and open up the main gate to make available the big hilsa fishes in the market”.
The minister said the government initiatives resulted in enhanced hilsa production in recent years saying 3.95 lakh tonnes of hilsa was produced in 2015-16 fiscal while the figure exceeded 5 lakh tonnes in 2016-17.
The hilsa production was only 2.98 lakh tonnes in 2008-2009 fiscal, he said.
Chanda said while Bangladesh witnessed enhanced hilsa production, its yields in India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand continued to decline.
According to official data, hilsa alone accounts for 11 percent of the country’s total fisheries production and its contribution to GDP is around 1 percent.
Bangladesh produces around 75 percent of the global hilsa production and it is the prime source of livelihood to about 20 lakh people.
According to literature on fish resources, the roaming ground of hilsha ranges from Persian Gulf to Gulf of China through Bay of Bengal but 75 percent of it are produced in Bangladesh.
Basically a sea-water fish hilsha makes its way up fresh water rivers travelling up to 1300 kilometres during mating season, a feature that gives it the repute of being the most mobile fish species having its roaming ground both in sea and fresh water.