Bagerhat's Foylahat is the largest prawn fingerling market in southwest Bangladesh. Bagda and galda prawn fingerlings are brought in from different hatcheries of Cox's Bazar, Noakhali, Feni, and Chattogram to sell here.
The market is active from morning till afternoon. Most of the prawn farmers in the southwest depend on the supply of fingerlings from this market. The season for selling galda and bagda fingerlings lasts for six months a year. This season, fingerlings worth around Tk150 crore have been sold at the market.
Along with prawn larvae from hatcheries, fingerlings extracted from natural sources are also sold at the market. However, the demand for fingerlings from the river is higher as the quality is better than that of hatcheries.
The price of fingerlings from the rivers is also higher. Each thousand hatchery fingerlings are sold for Tk300-400 while fingerlings from the river are sold for Tk800-900.
There are more than a thousand people who work at the market to count the prawn fingerlings, and they earn up to Tk500 a day.
Sheikh Moniruzzaman, a prawn fingerling trader, said, "The sales start from dawn here and prawn farmers from areas such as Bagerhat, Satkhira, Paikgachha, and Khulna buy the fingerlings at different prices. They then release the fingerlings into their ghers [prawn fisheries]."
Mizanur Rahman, a gher trader, said, "We buy prawn fingerlings from this market to farm prawns at our gher. We are mostly interested in buying fingerlings that are from rivers as they result in good production; however, they are short in supply, so we are forced to purchase fingerlings that come from hatcheries."
The leaders of the business association also mentioned some problems this market faces regularly.
Speaking about the various difficulties at the market, a trader who did not want to be named, said that sometimes when prawn farmers buy the prawn larvae, they are harassed by officials of the administration about trivial matters. Sometimes the officials even dump the fingerlings back into the water – which badly affects the farmers.
"They even throw traders' buckets into the water," the trader added.
Gazi Rashedul Islam Dalim, president of Faylahat Bazaar Fisheries Association, said that there are more than 200 shops at Faylahat and thousands of people depend on the market for their livelihoods.
"About 3.5 crore prawn larvae are sold at this market every year," said Dalim.
But Dalim also mentioned harassment that traders and farmers face from administration officials. He called on the Fisheries Department and Bagerhat Deputy Commissioner's Office to help stop the harassment.
Talking to The Business Standard, Bagerhat District Fisheries Officer S M Russell said, "Faylahat is the biggest prawn fingerling haat in Bagerhat which many farmers depend on. We will find a proper solution to the problems the traders and farmers are facing after bringing the matter to the district administration and law enforcement agencies' attention."