Hilsa import likely to fall as Bangladesh plays spoilsport

It's bad news for all hilsa-loving Bengalis. With the price of hilsa sky-rocketing owing to a measure adopted by the Bangladesh government, the import of this fish is likely to be reduced from this year.

According to Kolkata-based hilsa importers, the Bangladesh government has kept the prices of hilsa static at $6 per kg for the last three years. "While the market price is $4, the import price for the Bangladeshi hilsa has been kept static at $6 (Rs 300) per kg," said Atul Chandra Das, president of West Bengal Fish Importers' Association.

"In 2007 during Khaleda Zia's regime the export of hilsa to India was banned for a year. After they relaxed the ban in June 2008, a minimum export price of $6 per kilo was fixed to control the availability of the fish in India," said Anwar Maksur, secretary of West Bengal Fish Importers' Association.

After incurring heavy losses for the last three years, the West Bengal Fish Importers' Association, which has been importing hilsa for more than 16 years, has decided to reduce the import figures from this year. "Last year, we incurred a loss of about Rs 1.5 crore," Das said. "We cannot completely stop importing. But we will import a much lesser amount about 20 to 30 tonnes this year, instead of the usual 100 tonnes."

A member of the association Muhammad Islam had imported hilsa this year at $6. But like the last three years, the stock was not sold at a price higher than Rs 270.

Countless number of letters, routed through Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, have been sent to the Bangladesh High Commission. "We have repeatedly sent letters to the state and Central governments, Bangladesh High Commission and the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh. Every time they assure that they will look into the matter, but nothing has been done till date," said Maksur.

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