Crab export rose by 85% in five months of the current FY, in comparison to previous year
The demand for crabs from the Sundarbans has significantly gone up in international markets, partly due to the fall in shrimp farming due to adverse weather conditions, water scarcity, and low oxygen in the water.
Sources at the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) office in Khulna said crab export amounted to $1.4 million in 2018-19 fiscal year, but has already accumulated $2.6 million in the first five months of the current 2019-20 fiscal year, an 85% rise from the previous one.
Upon investigation, it was found that there was abundant crab farming in Khulna's Dacope, Batiaghata, Dumuria, Paikgacha and Koira upazilas adjacent to the Sundarbans, as well as Rampal, Mongla, Sharankhola, and Sadar upazila in Bagerhat.
In the last fiscal year, 6,989 tons of crabs were cultivated in Khulna's Dacope, Batiaghata, Dumuria, Paikgacha and Koira upazilas on 28,546 hectares of land.
The countries with a high demand for crabs from the Sundarbans include China, Taiwan, Belgium, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Australia.
These countries have started to prefer Sundarban crabs to frozen shrimp from the same region, due to factors such as its durability and high sales value.
Sheikh Wahiduzzaman Labu, a crab exporter from Khulna, said 10 tons of crabs head off from Digraj Mokam near Mongla port for Dhaka's Nalbhag wholesale point. They are sold as per their size, ranging between Tk550 to Tk1,200 per kilogram.
Md Arif Billah, another crab exporter, said January and February were the breeding months for crabs, but climate change has caused the breeding to shift to March and April. The lack of modern equipment has also caused crab farmers to incur losses.
Several other farmers said crabs do not perish due to cold waves or extreme heat, as compared to shrimp, which makes crab farming more sustainable.
Shrimps on average sell at Tk700-800 per kg, but crabs fetch more because of those reasons.
Ratan Sarkar, a crab farmer from Batiaghata upazila, said that previously, shrimp and crabs used to be grown in the same enclosures. This proved to be disastrous. Later they received training from the agriculture office and began cultivating the two in separate enclosures, which brought favourable results.
Others said the government is planning to establish a crab hatchery in the district. That is expected to expand crab farming and bring in more revenue in the long run.
Md Abu Sayeed, fisheries officer in Khulna, said once the breeding of one batch of crabs is complete, they can be extracted from that particular batch only twice.
Crab farming has the potential to grow into a thriving industry if it is nurtured and patronized properly, he added.