Fish is the source of around 60 percent of animal protein in the country, and a sizable number of people are involved in fishing. But the fisheries sector faced a crisis over the recent Covid-19 outbreak across the country.
Experts say that the sector can improve from the crisis under certain conditions. The people involved need promotional schemes like refinancing announced by the government.
March and April is the season for fish cultivation. But hatchery owners and ordinary growers in Mymensingh are in huge trouble because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The people involved said that they face problems like transportation shortage, unavailability of fish feed, reduction in fish pollen production, worker shortage, and fall in price.
Sanjay Goswami, manager of Reliance Aqua Farm in Mymensingh Sadar said that his nursery supplies fish pollen to different parts of the country. But fish pollen worth one crore has been stuck in his nursery as the farmers cannot collect it because the lockdown.
Many fishermen were supposed to sell their fish before Ramadan, said A S M Sanwar Rasel, senior fisheries officer at Iswarganj upazila in Mymensingh.
"Since the wholesale price has dropped, they did not sell the fish and kept them in the ponds. It is also increasing the production cost. But they were supposed to deal with fresh pollen by this time," he said.
Data from fisheries department of Mymensingh division shows that this sector alone experienced a financial loss of around Tk30 crore in the past two months. Approximately 3,500 fish farmers suffered losses.
Abdul Mazid, the deputy director of the fisheries department of Mymensingh, said that the situation is still under control. But if the lockdown is extended, it may cause trouble, he added.
Abdul Quadir Tarafder, general secretary of the Bangladesh Fish Hatchery Owners Association said that April and May is the best time to release fish pollen. But the supply of pollen has reduced due to the lockdown.
"Many farm workers are not willing to work because of the coronavirus outbreak. It is causing damage to everyone related to the fish farming industry, and it may also lead to a long-term loss in this sector of Bangladesh," he added.
Meanwhile, the government has launched a refinancing scheme of Tk5,000 crore to supply capital in the agriculture sector. The scheme has been formulated to provide low-interest loans to all agricultural sectors including fisheries.
But key people say that the fund should reach farmers by June, otherwise it will be difficult for fish farmers to start production.
Fisheries experts think that not selling fish and failure to start new production on time will have some long-term impacts, and the country may face shortage of animal protein.
But if fishery entrepreneurs get quick financing, it may reduce the crisis to some extent, they said.