Chittagong meets 30% of the domestic demand for dried fish
Dried fish is a much-loved traditional food in the country, particularly in Chittagong.
With the arrival of winter, Shutki Palli dedicated to fish drying process along Karnaphuli River in the port city are now abuzz with fish drying activities.
During a recent visit to the Bakalia Bastuhara Shutki Palli, hundreds of people were seen busy with the work of dried fish processing.
Some were washing the fishes while others sprinkling salt on them or were busy slitting the fishes and pulling out their entrails.
Some of them were seen busy placing the processed fishes on bamboo frames and hanging them on poles under the sun to dry.
Apart from Bakalia Shutki Palli, another nine other fish processing clusters (Shutki Pallis) have been developed in Ichhanagar, Juldha and Dangarchar areas along the bank of Karnaphuli River.
The fish processors in these Shutki Pallis have said the dried fishes are transported to Asadganj, a wholesale market for dried fish in Chittagong city to supply them to rest of the country.
Wholesalers in Asadganj say that besides supplying dried fish to the rest of the country, they also send consignments of dried fish to Middle Eastern countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar as well as to the US and the UK – the countries that are home to a large numbers of Bangladeshi diasporas.
A decade ago, Md Yunus (a resident of Banshkhali upazila of Chittagong) was a salt trader. He switched to fish drying.
As he spoke to this correspondent, Yunus said that the fish drying process continued round the year with the exception of the rainy season.
“Although fish drying process continues throughout the year, peak season for the activity spanned from November to February. Fifteen to twenty different varieties of fishes are being processed in the Shutki Pallis,” said the dried fish processor.
However, mostly Chhuri (Ribbon fish), Loitta (Bombay duck) and Faisha (Phasa) are processed as dried fish, he added.
“I procure fish from Fisheryghat for drying them up here, in the Shutki Palli. Subsequently, I sell processed fish to the wholesale traders in Asadganj dried fish market,” said Yunus.
Yunus said, of the various types of dried fishes he sells Fatra at Tk600, Loitta at Tk450, Chhuri at Tk600-1000, Faisha at 250-350 and Pata at Tk120 per kg.
According to the dried fish processors, Chittagong meets 30% of the domestic demand for dried fish; and the fish processed in the port city are exported to Middle Eastern countries, China, Thailand and Hon Kong as well.
While talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Asgar Hossain, president at the Chittagong Small Dried Fish Production Marketing Cooperative Society Ltd, says out of 150 dried fish processing units in the port city, 120 units are now in operation.
According to the dried fish processors, there are some 5,000 workers in Bakalia Shutki Palli. Of them, 60-700 workers are permanent while the others work on daily basis. The temporary workers get Tk250-300 per day, while the permanent workers get Tk8, 000-12,000 per month.
Asgar Hossain says they have been facing unfair competition from the imported sub-standard dried fishes from India, Pakistan and Myanmar.