Dried Fish Production in Habiganj Drops by 11-Fold in a Decade

06 Feb 2023

The production of dried fish has decreased significantly to 45 tonnes in 2020 from over 500 tonnes a decade ago in haor areas of Habiganj due to scarcity of fishes in natural water reservoirs, an increased demand for raw fishes, and inadequate government support, said people related to fish-drying.  


Pratap Chandra Das, a fisherman of Dighalbagh village in Habiganj's Ajmiriganj upazila, told The Business Standard that he used to dry some 1,000-1-200kg of fish every day five years ago. But now, the amount has declined to a mere 100kg, for which he said the scarcity of raw fishes in haors is responsible.


He said he is even considering abandoning this profession.


"There was a time when 60% of households in our village used to make dried fish. Now there are not many fish in haors and that's why no one makes dried fish. Only three families are making dried fish this year. But the amount is not significant like before," added Pratap.


Like Pratap, other fishermen in the shutki-producing villages Nogaon, Birat, Kodalia and Badalpur in Ajmiriganj upazila, are also turning their back from shutki-production, with only a handful number of households making dried fish.


Previously, most of the families in the fishing communities of Ajmiriganj, Baniachong and Lakhai upazilas used to dry various species of local fishes like snakehead murrel, great snakehead and zig-zag eel, usually in October-March of the year. But since the last five years, they have been making shutkis of only Puntius. 


As per data provided by the Directorate Office of Fisheries in Habiganj, as many as 5,000 families were involved in dried fish production in the district a decade ago, which has declined to less than a hundred now.


Dried fish production in the district has hit rock bottom in the last five years following a downward trend over more than the last two decades, said the office.


In 2017, 200 tonnes of dried fish was produced in the district, which declined to nearly 100 tonnes in 2018. The production further declined to 66 tonnes in 2019 and 45 tonnes in 2020.


The directorate, however, did not collect any data on the production in the years 2021 and 2022. 


According to the Directorate Office of Fisheries in Habiganj, currently, the district has a total natural reservoirs of 81,671 hectares.


In 2012, total production of local varieties of fishes in the natural reservoirs in Habiganj was 33,693 tonnes, which has now decreased to 26,167 tonnes after a decrease of 7,526 tonnes over the last decade. 


The demand for raw fish as a daily kitchen item in the district is 4,592.12 tonnes per year whereas the production is 49,376.46 tonnes, of which 26167 tonnes come from natural water bodies and 21,853 tonnes from farming in ponds.


Amjad Hossain of Baniachong upazila's Ikram area, who has been trading in dried fish for more than 15 years, told TBS that the amount of dried fish they managed to collect from local producers is not sufficient to meet even the demand for the item in Habiganj alone.   


"Rivers, canals, haors and other water bodies are disappearing. Now, fish is not much available in haors. Farmed fish provide a major source of food items and because of that the production of dried fish is decreasing," Habiganj district fisheries officer Md Nazrul Islam told TBS.


"The directorate office (in Habiganj) does not have any information about the amount of dried fish produced in the district in 2021. Besides, no target for production has been set for this year. Last year we trained fishermen to produce quality dried fish, but this time we did not get any trainees," he added.


Source: The Business Standard