The demand for hilsa fish at the Port Road fish market in Barishal did not fall even for a single day during the Covid-19 pandemic. The market has an abundant supply of fish while prices also remain the same.
Every day, hundreds of fishermen anchor their fishing boats at the Kirtankhola River ghat (pier) beside the market to sell fish.
The century-old fish market is one of the biggest in the country, local traders said.
Hundreds of wholesalers buy fish from the anchored boats regularly from dawn to dusk.
Around 100 fishing boats were seen on Monday. Day labourers were unloading fish from the boats while 20-25 boats were arriving regularly.
A group of workers unload fish from early morning till evening from the boats. At the same time, another group is busy loading fish onto trucks for transporting to different areas.
"We earn smart daily wages (Tk600–1,000) if more fishing boats come," said Masud, a worker of the market.
"Each boat carries fish worth around Tk20 lakh," said Jahidul Islam, a fishing boat owner who has been selling fish in the market for the last 20 years.
He said a boat carries 80 to 100 maunds of fish depending on size.
"We mainly catch fish in the sea and sometimes in the big rivers in Barishal division," Jahidul said.
He said the fish are sold at Tk600-650 per kg.
"We sell 2,000-3,000 maunds of fish worth Tk50-60 crore daily in the peak season, and 1,000-2,000 maunds during the off season," said Uzzal, a wholesaler.
He said he sells fish for Tk750 per kg.
"Fish are sent to all parts of the country," he said, adding that the daily transaction in the market is around Tk100-120 crore.
The market remains busy round the year, except during the 21-day period when there is a ban on all kinds of fishing.
The market fulfills the highest demand for hilsa in the country, Uzzal said.
Around 50,000 people, including fishermen, ice bar suppliers and packaging workers, are directly dependent on the market to earn their daily bread, according to information of the wholesale shop owners' association.
"The taste of river fish is better than that of sea fish. Also, the price of river fish is a little higher," said Abdus Sukur, a fisherman who catches fish both in the sea and the rivers.
"We hardly catch river fish in our nets while sea hilsa is available," he added.
"We have had the same demand from buyers, and it even increased during the pandemic," said Raifqul Islam, owner of a wholesale shop.
"Our business did not slow down. Rather, it was soaring due to high demand for fish from all corners of the country," he said.
"We will earn a good profit if the fish supply continues as it is at present," he added.