Bangladesh will export around 3,000 tonnes of hilsa to India, marking the upcoming Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Hindu community, scheduled to be held next month.
“We have been exporting hilsa continuously for the last three years to India as a mark of goodwill and relief for 15-20 days ahead of the holy Durga festival,” said Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi.
A total of 60 private companies – each company to export a maximum of 50 tonnes of hilsa - got approval from the ministry to export those consignments during the religious festival.
The ministry, however, in its latest order has extended the export time frame till October 5 instead of the earlier scheduled time frame of September 30 as the government has imposed a 22-day hilsa fishing ban which will start from October 7.
As per the order, the export permits cannot be transferred to other companies or any kind of sub-contract is not allowed. Only authorised organisations will be able to export the shipments.
Last year, the commerce ministry approved 115 firms to export 4,600 tonnes of hilsa to India against applications from around 200 companies. But only 1,100 tonnes were ultimately exported.
Some 1,450 tonnes were exported to India in 2020 and 18 firms received permission in the year. In 2019, only one trader got permission and it exported 500 tonnes of fish.
According to the export policy order, the export of hilsa from Bangladesh is banned. However, every year before the Durga Puja, a large number of exporters of the country apply to the Ministry of Commerce for permission to send hilsa to India.
After halting the hilsa exports to India for seven years, the ministry allowed a certain amount of hilsa exports conditionally before the Durga Puja in 2019.
However, the government stopped the export in 2012 after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee opposed the Teesta water sharing agreement.
In 2015, when Mamata Banerjee visited Bangladesh and requested Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to export hilsa to India, the prime minister replied, "Hilsa will go if Teesta water comes".
Later in 2019, the government resumed hilsa exports to its neighbour.