(Feature) Bangladesh's nat'l fish priced like gold ahead of Bengali New Year

April 14, 2016 3:35 am 

DHAKA, April 13 — Prices of the hugely popular and delightfully tasty fish Hilsa have skyrocketed in Bangladesh ahead of the Bengali New Year 1423 which falls on Thursday.

For many Bengali people Hilsa, a species of fish in the herring family, is a "must eat" fish on the first day of the Bengali New Year.

The revered fish usually migrate to Bangladeshi rivers from the Bay of Bengal between June and September.

According to the fisheries department, Hilsa accounts for about 12 percent of the country's annual fish production and about 450,000 fishermen depend on Hilsa, which usually grow to a weight of 4 kg each.

Bengalis usually start the day with a traditional, simple breakfast of panta-bhat (leftover rice soaked in water) and fried hilsa — the prices for which local supermarkets have hiked severely.

Hilsa, a delicacy, weighing about 1 kg is now being sold in Dhaka's markets for between 10,000-12,000 taka (up to about 150 U. S. dollars).

The fish weighing between 500 and 650 grams were selling for anything between 2,000-2,500 taka in the retail market.

With the prices extremely high this year, the tradition of eating Hilsa will apparently be restricted to the more affluent Bengalis.

"I sell Hilsa all year and now the price is much higher for the Bengali New Year," said Babul Miah, who works in one of Dhaka's largest kitchen markets called the Karwan Bazar.

He is asking for a fixed price of 14,000 taka for a pair of Hilsa fish each weighing a little less than 1 kg.

Swapan Babu, another fish trader, said Hilsa fish prices have shot up to a large extent over the last few weeks.

Babu had been asking 24,000 taka for two newly-stocked Hilsa fish each weighing about 1 kg. He has also been asking 10,000-11, 000 taka for four fish weighing each about 500 grams each.

"Although I am asking 10,000-11,000 taka for four pieces of fish actually I will sell them for about 8,000 taka."

Mohammad Shipon said there is higher demand for Hilsa fish now in the market. Since Hilsa is an absolute must to celebrate new year, its demand is through the roof.

The Skyrocketing prices of Hilsa ahead of the new year, however, have kept some buyers at bay.

"Since my childhood I have seen my family members eat Hilsa fish on new year day. Everyone, including rich and poor people in Bangladesh, like to eat Hilsa and panta-bhat during the new year," said Kazi Mohammad Nurul Islam, a government official.

"That's why I have come to buy a fish though its price is too high," he said.

"Without Hilsa fish we won't get full taste of new year. It's now an essential part of our new year celebration. Due to the higher prices, I am planning to buy only one fish instead of many. I am ready to pay any price to buy at least one Hilsa. After all its new year," Another customer said.

Amid soaring prices many were seen in the city's markets to, instead of rushing to buy the exorbitantly priced fish, busy buying cakes, sweets and fruits to "sweeten the mood" during the upcoming celebrations. (PNA/Xinhua)

BNB/EBP

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