Ilish or Hilsa fish arats (wholesale depots) have been turned into watermelon depots in Barisal due to the lack of ilish fishes at this time of the year.
A two-month government imposed ban on catching ilish fry, which started from March 1, in a 340km area of five major rivers in the six southern districts, has resulted in the scarcity of ilish in the market.
The small numbers of of ilish that are currently available in the market are being sold at a high price, often in the range of Tk1,500-3,000 based on their sizes and weights.
The ban was imposed to facilitate safe spawning by preventing fishermen from catching ilish fry, said Divisional Fishery Officer Bazlur Rahman.
Now the Hilsa-Mokam premises of Barisal Port Road are being used for trading and transporting watermelon, said Bimal Chandra Das, officer (ilish) of Barisal Fishery Directorate.
Chief of Ilish wholesale market Ajit Das Monu said that, due to the scarcity of ilish, traders have invested money and logistics behind transporting and selling watermelon instead.
[caption id="attachment_256687" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
Watermelons cultivated on sandy river shoals in the district's southern region being bruoght to Barisal Port for distribution in different areas of the country Anisur Rahman Swapan/Dhaka Tribune
According to Deputy Director of Agriculture Extension Department of Barisal Tushar Kanti Samaddar, 17,31,600 metric tons of watermelons were cultivated in 35,500 hectares of land last year.
However, the watermelon production suffered loss in 2017 due to the adverse effect of rain, hailstorm and flood on the cultivated lands.
As a result, only 18,851 hectares of land in 11 districts were used to cultivate watermelons this year. But due to favourable weather, there was no shortage in the production of watermelons.
The sandy shores of Mehendiganj of Barisal, Galachipa and Rangabali areas of Patuakhali and upazilas of Bhola saw a satisfactory production of watermelons in 2018.
"The price of watermelons at field level were reduced due to the bumper production," said a local wholesaler Abdur Rahman. "But due to the increased cost of cultivation and transportation, the price was increased at retail markets."
The watermelon season starts from April and lasts till May.