On a recent visit to Bakalia Bastuhara Shutki Palli, it was seen that hundreds of workers are passing busy days making dried fish
The dry fish processors in the Shutki Palli of the port city are passing busy hours with the advent of winter season.
On a recent visit to Bakalia Bastuhara Shutki Palli, it was seen that hundreds of workers are passing busy days making dried fish.
Some of them were seen busy washing and spraying salt on the fish while others were slitting and pulling out digestive tracts. Some of them were found spreading fish on bamboo mats and hanging them on to the bamboo poles under the sun.
A total of nine fish processing estates have developed in Bakalia, Ichhanagar, Juldha, and Dangarchar areas on the bank of Karnaphuli River.
According to the dried fish processors, Chittagong supplies 30% of the total demand of the country and the fish processed here are exported to Middle Eastern countries, China, Thailand, and Hong Kong.
The fish processors said the produce from Shutki Palli goes to Asadganj, a wholesale market of dried fish in Chittagong city, from where dried fish is supplied around the country.
According to the dried fish processors, there are some 5000 workers in Bakalia Shutki Palli. Of them, 60-700 workers are permanent and the remaining work on a daily basis. The temporary workers get Tk250-300 daily while the permanent workers get Tk8,000-12,000 per month.
Wholesalers in Asadganj claim that besides supplying dried fish to the rest of the country, they also send consignments to Middle Eastern countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, as well as the US and the UK – the countries that are home to a large numbers of expatriate Bangladeshis.
Md Yunus, a dried fish processor, said: “Although fish drying activities continue throughout the year, peak season is from November to February. Although 15-20 varieties of fish are processed here, Chhuri (Ribbon fish), Loitta (Bombay duck) and Faisha (Phasa) are processed the most,” said the dried fish producer.
“I procure fish from Fisheryghat for drying them up here. Afterwards, I sell the processed fish to the traders of Asadganj dried fish wholesale market,” said Yunus.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Asgar Hossain, president of Chittagong Small Dried Fish Production Marketing Cooperative Society Ltd, said: “Although the supply of fish from the sea is adequate following the fishing ban, the sale of the dried fish dropped a little bit due to the coronavirus pandemic
“Out of 150 dried fish processing units, 120 units are now in operation. We process around 30 types of sea fish except for shrimp. Around 5,000 metric tons of dried fish are produced annually in the Shutki Palli. That is why the government should set up a dried fish-processing centre in Chittagong,” he added.
Mentionable, on November 3, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) okayed a Tk 199-crore project to set up a dried fish-processing industry in Cox’s Bazar to produce quality dried fish and increase its production minimizing fish wastage.
Asgar further said that they were facing an uneven competition as substandard dried fish was being imported from India, Pakistan, and Myanmar.
“For example, locally produced Chhuri Shutki sells at Tk 800-100 per kg while imported Chhuri Shutki sells at Tk 500-600 per kg. We do not get any loan from the bank. The dried fish will get a boost if we are provided with necessary support. The government should discourage importing dried fish as they were found to have been laced with toxic substances,” Asgar said, adding that the fish is processed here in a natural way under the open sky without any chemical.
Dried fish, “shutki” in Bangla, is a much-loved traditional food in the country, particularly in Chittagong.
“Dried fish can be a cheap source of protein for the low and middle-income groups. Usually, 5kg of fish are turned into a kg of dried fish. Therefore, dried fish is a lot richer in protein than fish, as protein is concentrated in it. It can easily meet our daily protein demand,” said Farhana Lovely, District Fisheries Officer of Chittagong.