Prospects of export to India are increasing every year
Excess puti fish from Narail’s marshes is being fermented and processed for export, according to local fishermen and its traders.
Not only is this returning a fair price for its farmers, but it is also generating interest and employment for entrepreneurs.
In the last five years, marsh areas— such as Shalua, Maij Para, Shingasolpur, Mirzapur, and others— have been heavily involved in the drying process of puti.
There are 57 marshes in Narail altogether, where a significant amount of small-sized puti—and other such fish—are caught for four consecutive months of a year.
Fishermen usually preserve them for duck feed, but now the puti are fermented and dried, then sent across the country in sacks; employing thousands of the district’s fishermen.
Afterwards the fermented fish are mixed with oil and water, and packed to be sold commercially.
The largest puti fermentation and production operation of the country is in the district’s Maij Para union, at Shalua, where 2,000 maunds of puti are fermented from the middle of October till February. The fish are first brought in and then dried under the sun.
They are in great demand in Comilla’s Daudkandi and Brahmanbaria, where they are further processed and packaged for export, for example to India’s Assam and Meghalaya.
Low capital and cost of operations attract many to this trade.
According to fish traders, puti production fetches Tk1.5 crore in transactions. A maund of dried fish, varying in quality, costs anywhere between Tk6,500-8,000.
Alak Malo, a puti fisherman, started in this trade 13 years ago, with a handful of such fish. Now an established fermented-puti trader, he told the Dhaka Tribune that he sends his goods to: Madaripur, Gopalganj, Magura and other districts of the country; where they are in great demand.
He added that apart from puti, he purchases fresh fish at the market, rinses them in marsh water, and dries them under the sun for 10-15 days; turning them over three times during the drying process.
“I have dried 250 maunds of dried fish till now,” Alak added, “I purchase raw fish between Tk500-5,000 per maund, dry them, and then sell them at between Tk6,500-15,000 per maund.”
Faruk Bapari, a fish trader, came from Madaripur to establish his own dry fish hatchery near Shalua. He now dries 550 maunds of fish annually.
Siddiqur Rahman, a fish trader from Madaripur, said that he has been in the fish-drying business for 30 years. He remarked that a lot of similar fish are caught in Gopalganj’s marshes, but they are paltry when compared to the ones caught in Narail, in terms of quantity.
“Large-sized dried fish cost more, while the little ones cost less,” he added, “Every year, the fermented- fish trade amounts to Tk1.5 crore.”
Ajit Malakar, a fisherman from Ichamati marsh, said that previously his nets caught 10-20kg’s-worth of puti fish, which he used to store as duck feed. However, after seeing traders purchase them in bulk, he now sells them for Tk30-40 per kilogram.
According to the district fisheries office, there are six large-scale dried-fish hatcheries in Maij Para and Shingasolpur; where 2,500 maunds of fermented puti are processed annually.
Hose Ara Happy, assistant director of the district fisheries office, told the Dhaka Tribune that larger production volumes are attracting increasingly more entrepreneurs; but more quality control is needed, which her office is providing to fishermen across the district.