Fish traders in Cox's Bazar have announced an indefinite ban on fish sales to protest the syndicated increase in the ice price.
They took the decision at the Cox's Bazar Fishery Ghat on Thursday morning during a protest programme.
Speakers at the event said fish traders at the Fishery Ghat are suffering because of the profit-monger ice mill owners.
Although the production cost is almost the same, a block of ice worth Tk50-100 is being sold at four times more than the actual price, they said.
Besides, they are not allowed to bring any ice from other places, and are forced to buy it from local ice factory owners, claimed fish traders.
The traders claim that a number of ice mill owners at jetty ghat 6 and Fishery Ghat area are also abusing their political power. The ice factory owners are associated with the ruling party, so they always try to dominate the business.
The affected and agitated fish traders have stopped buying ice, and staged the protest programme. Fish trade is now closed in the Fishery Ghat.
Consequently, it is causing serious trouble to the trawler owners returning to the port with the fish catches from the sea. As the fish traders have stopped their activities, the trawler owners are unable to unload the fish.
Some of the trawler owners claim that the fish are rotting in many trawlers.
It was also alleged in the protest programme that the locally produced ice was of very low quality and weighed less. Besides, the supply of ice was not sufficient.
Around 80% of fish traders were affected due to non-availability of ice at the right time. Because they could not bear the loss, many of the fish traders have closed their businesses. And those who are still in business are counting losses.
However, the ice mill factory owners are making more profit.
Delwar Hossain, general secretary of the district fishing boat owners' association, said they were being forced to buy ice at Tk500 which was actually sold at Tk150.
"When we try to get ice from outside of the locality, we are obstructed. Although the locally produced blocks of ice are large, the inside is completely empty. The traders have to face a loss by purchasing this ice of low weight," he said.
Traders are buying ice from Chattogram, Noakhali, Chandpur, Khulna and Mahipur to keep the business afloat. But the dishonest ice factory owners obstruct the process. So, the protests and demonstrations are going on, he added.
Although many trawlers arrive with fish at the fish offl-oading jetty, they cannot unload the fish. It is causing financial loss to the trawler owners, said Delwar.
The meeting also informed that 17 ice mills in Cox's Bazar produce 1,200 pieces of ice weighing 20 to 24 kg altogether. However, during the peak season there is a demand of 2,000 pieces of ice in Cox's Bazar district.
Cox's Bazar Fishermen Cooperative Society President Nurul Islam Chishti, General Secretary Shafiul Alam Bashi, District Fishing Boat Owners' Association General Secretary Delwar Hossain, Fishermen's Unity Council President Osman Gani Tulu and General Secretary Jane Alam Putu, among others, spoke at the event.
The speakers said it costs Tk40 to 42 to make a block of ice. It would have been normal to sell ice for Tk100. But now the owners are syndicating and selling that ice for Tk300-400.
As a result, the fish traders have stopped all kinds of fish trading at Fishery Ghat and await a peaceful solution to this problem is available.
Experts blame the lack of coordination between local boat owners and traders with the Fisheries Office for the chaos.
Md Zahidul Islam, chief of Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation in Cox's Bazar said, "The protesters came to my chamber. The matter has been reported to the authorities concerned ." He hopes that a solution will be found soon.