The countrywide strict lockdown has forced the supply chain system to come to a halt
Shrimp export has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, preventing farmers from getting fair prices.
Matters have been made worse as farmers were busy renovating and/or expanding their shrimp enclosures at the beginning of harvesting season this year, adding to their overhead cost which they cannot recuperate now.
Additionally, the countrywide strict lockdown has forced the supply chain system to come to a halt, freezing shrimp distribution across the country as well.
This has led to the surge in shrimp prices in local markets, who are forced to sell Galda and Bagda variants of shrimp locally at Tk600-1,400 per kilo, depending on its size and quality, which were less than half its retail price before the second wave of the pandemic arrived.
According to the Khulna Fisheries Inspection and Quality Control Office, 85% of the frozen shrimps exported from Bangladesh go to Europe, while the rest are exported to the United States.
However, the second wave of the pandemic has forced them to bar imports from other countries, bringing shrimp export to a standstill.
Shrimp farmers and traders said that apart from rising enclosure prices, the price of baby prawns, or clutches, along with its feed, have also gone up, adding to processing, labour, and packaging costs.
But the pandemic has caused shrimp prices to go down in the local market, due to lack of availability.
In Fayalhat of Rampal upazila of Bagerhat, traders used to sell crores worth of shrimp each day, but things have become quiet in recent times.
The workers involved in the warehouse have been sitting idle due to the transport crisis caused by the coronavirus.
According to the warehouse keeper and shrimp clutch counting workers, about 4,000 to 5,000 people, including traders and workers involved in the trade, have become unemployed due to the severe lockdown that began on April 14.
On the other hand, if such a situation continues, the shrimp farmers will suffer if they are not able to meet the demand at the beginning of the season.
Storekeeper of a shrimp farm Md Moniruzzaman said that Bagda and Galda clutches come to Khulna from Chittagong, Feni, Noakhali, and Cox's Bazar.
However, due to the pandemic, there is no supply of shrimp clutches life before, the farmers are not getting as per the demand. Due to this, 95% farmers will be affected.
Shrimp farmer Harun Sheikh said: “I have been living here for 12-13 years. During this time, the rate of fish cultivation has come down. I used to sell my shrimps for Tk1,300-1,400 per kilogram, now that has come down to as low as Tk700 per kg. I have two enclosures, each 10-12 bigha in size. The future looks very bleak."
Zakir Hassan, the founding president of the Barakpur Shrimp Storekeepers' Association, said the shrimp industry was suffering a lot during the pandemic.
Shrimp worth Tk1,800 is being sold at Tk800-900 per kg. There is a huge amount of revenue from this shrimp industry. Government support to the farmers is needed to keep the shrimp industry alive, he added.
Golam Kibria Ripon, general secretary of the Khulna Divisional Pona Businessmen's Association and a shrimp trader in Paikgachha Upazila, said the impact of the pandemic on shrimp is serious.
In 10-12 days, a significant amount of shrimp began dying for unknown reasons. Now the farmers are suffering due to the death of shrimps, not to mention an existing shortage of clutches.
According to the Khulna District Fisheries Office, Bagda and lobster are cultivated on about 260,000 hectares of land in the coastal districts including Khulna every year.
About a million people are involved in farming, and 80% of the country's shrimps are in the three districts of the southwestern region, Khulna, Bagerhat, and Satkhira.
The total production of shrimp in the country is 50,000-60,000 tons.
In the 2015-16 financial year, about 30,000 tons of shrimp were exported from Khulna region. In 2017-18, the production decreased and the export decreased to 25,000 tons.
According to the Bagerhat Fisheries Department, there are 69,736 shrimp farmers in Bagerhat, and 61,356 bagda and lobster enclosures in 61,006 hectares of land.
In the fiscal year 2019-20, 18,046 tons of bagda and 16,336 tons of lobster have been produced in these farms.
Bagerhat District Fisheries Officer SM Russell said that the price of shrimp has come down due to the closure of exports.
The shrimp industry in Bagerhat has lost Tk140 crore in the last one year due to the suspension, which might eventually increase to Tk250 crores.
The government is taking several plans to overcome the losses of the farmers. As part of this, financial incentives are being given to 26,000 fish farmers district as well as easy loan facility from banks for farmers, Russel added.