Dry fish worth around Tk100 crore have been locked for 15 days inside 45 warehouses and 300 shops in Asadganj Bazar – one of the largest wholesale dry fish markets of Bangladesh.
Located in Chattogram city, the market has remained closed since the government declared general holidays from March 26 to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Some of the dry fish have already begun rotting, according to traders of the market, who fear losing crores of taka if the market does not open soon.
According to Farid Ahmed, general secretary of the Asadganj Dry Fish Traders' Association, trade at the market reaches Tk45-Tk50 crore on a usual day.
"The market has been closed since the government declared general holidays. So around 5-6 lakh kilogrammes of dry fish – worth around Tk100 crore – have remained locked inside the warehouses," he told The Business Standard.
Some of the dry fish have already started to rot, he said, adding, "All people involved in this sector will be affected by this."
Traders from different parts of the country buy dry fish from Asadganj Bazar. The product is also exported to different countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arab, Oman, Qatar, Iraq, Malaysia and Libya.
Dry fish from different regions of the country, including Cox's Bazar, Khulna, Pabna, Brahmanbaria and Kuakata, come to this market. Besides, traders also import dry fish from different countries – including Myanmar and India – and sell those here.
But now, all business activities both at home and abroad are suspended.
Bahadur Alam, a dry fish trader of Asadganj, not only sells dry fish to local traders but also exports the food item to several Middle Eastern countries. After the coronavirus outbreak, however, his business has come to a halt.
"Though there were several orders from foreign buyers, now they are not interested in taking the fish," he said, adding there has been no business for three weeks.
"I have eight employees. Their salaries and other costs are around Tk2 lakh per month. If things go like this, we will be doomed."
According to Bangladesh Dry Fish Exporters' Association, dry fish worth around Tk100 crore are exported to different countries annually. Around 10 lakh people are involved in this sector.
Abdur Sukkur, president of the association, said dry fish exports are suspended at the moment.
"Dry fish worth crores of taka remain unsold in different dry fish processing plants of the country. Workers in the sector are going through a very difficult time now. The businessmen will incur huge losses if the government does not come forward," he explained.
The Asadganj Dry Fish Traders' Association has contacted the authorities concerned to open the market. But the authorities requested the traders to keep the market closed until the situation returns to normal.
The local demand for dry fish in the country is 55,000 tonnes, according to the Department of Fisheries. Of the amount, 22,000 tonnes are produced in the country and the remaining amount is imported from abroad.