Bangladesh’s exports earnings from dried fish or ‘shutki’ went up 5.54 per cent to $8.37 million in the last fiscal year thanks to rising demand and government initiatives to boost production.
According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), the export growth was 5.54 per cent in Fiscal Year 2020-21, up from $7.93 million in the previous FY.
Local traders said shutki is exported to the UK, the US, and Middle Eastern countries. Loitya, Chhuri, Sundori, Faissha, Lakha, Rupchanda, Hilsha, Shrimp, Punti, Shurma, Moilla, Chapila, and Poa are the most popular ones.
In coastal areas, dried fish is one of the primary sources of livelihood.
The government is implementing “Establishment of Dried Fish Processing Industry in Cox’s Bazar District” project at Khurushkul in the Sadar upazila spending Tk 198.79 crore. Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation (BFDC) is executing the project to produce quality dried fish, boost production, and minimise wastage by December 2023.
Project Director and BFDC Manager (Planning) Md Samsuzzaman told The Business Post that the land development work is now ongoing.
“Dried fish will be exported under this project. There will be a 2,500-square metre landing shed, 1,860 square metre four-storey laboratory, office, training centre-dormitory, 36 dried fish sale centres, an electricity substation and four-chambered cold storage with a 100-tonne capacity,” he added.
Samsuzzaman said they would be able to export 5,000MT dried fishes per annum under this project. “We planned to complete it by 2023 but the pandemic affected work. We will try to complete the work within the estimated time,” he added.
Bangladesh produced 50,731MT dried fishes in FY19-20, according to Md Jewel Shaik, the chief fisheries extension officer of the Extension Section at the Department of Fisheries.
“More than 50 per cent of the production comes from Chottogram area and rest from different districts including Khulna, Sylhet and Rajshahi. Production is increasing each year but we don’t have exact data,” he added.
St Martin’s Island resident and shutki trader Mohammad Ameen told The Business Post that they dry fish from November to May each year.
He said there are 10-15 licence holders on the island who sell shutki.
Jayed Hossain, a worker at Nazirartek Shutki Palli in Cox’s Bazar, said they sold 20-25 items of dried fish. There are around 2,000 workers at the Palli. Nearly 40,000-50,000 tonnes of dried fish are produced there in a season.
“We dry fish maintaining hygiene. We need two days to dry small fish and 10-12 days for big fish. We dry different fishes, including Faissha, Chhuri, Sundori, Rupchanda, Nailla, Lotya, Maitta, Khorotta, Pape, Patra, Poka, Chapila, Pata, Baspata, Loha gurani and Podoni,” he added.
Bangladesh Fish Exporters and Importers Association President Md Nizam Uddin said the local market size is around Tk 25-30 crore. The sector employs nearly 15,000 people.
Local production meets 80 per cent of the demand while the rest is imported from India, Pakistan and Myanmar.
“We have 200 members who are engaged in fish export and import. Loitya and Rupchanda have the highest demand in foreign market, especially in the Middle East. There is a huge potential for Bangladeshi dried fish in the global market,” he said.