Price hike of fish feed keeps farmers in trouble
The rising cost of fish feed has dealt a fresh blow to thousands of aquaculturists in Mymensingh who had only just started recovering from the coronavirus fallout as transportation and other facilities returned to normal after economic activities resumed.
The government had enforced a nationwide economic shutdown between March 26 and May 30 last year in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.
But even after the lockdown ended, certain restrictions on public movement and other measures were kept in place to control the recurring waves of infection.
As a result, thousands of fish farmers in Mymensingh, one of Bangladesh's main fish producing hubs, faced significant losses due to the lack of smooth transportation facilities.
Abu Raihan, an aquaculturist based in Dhanikhola village of Trishal upazila, told this correspondent that the price of fish feed advanced significantly in recent months.
The price of fish feed rose by about Tk 8 to Tk 10 in the last six months, and around Tk 15 in the last one year.
"This is yet another trouble for fish farmers who have been hit hard by the pandemic as production costs are now higher than trade prices," he said.
For example, Basa, locally known as Pangas, are currently being sold for between Tk 100 and Tk 105 per kilogramme (kg) even though it costs around Tk 95 to produce.
Other breeds such as the Climbing Perch (Magur) and Gulsha are priced between Tk 180 to Tk 240 per kg and Tk 250 to Tk 300 per kg respectively while the Roho labeo (Rui) and South Asian Carp (Katal) cost about Tk 150 to Tk 300 per kg depending on its size even though each species costs at least Tk 150 to produce.
And although the fish market is now faring a little better than last year, the increase in production cost has wiped any smile off the farmers' faces, Raihan said.
Echoing him, Md Nurul Haque, proprietor of Brahmaputra Fish Feed Complex in Mymensingh sadar upazila, said farmers were left with little to no profit under these circumstances.
To address the issue, the government needs to strictly monitor the feed market as farmers require this support to survive such hard times, according to Subrata Kishore Thakur, another fish farmer in Trishal upazila.
Dilip Kumar Saha, district fisheries officer of Mymensingh, recently spoke with the owners of some fish feed factories in Bhaluka upazila who told him that the present situation was a result of them not yet getting orders for the required raw materials.
Saha then claimed that the price hike is restricted to certain areas where local dealers are pulling the strings.
About the losses faced by farmers last year, he said local aquaculturists were unable to supply their fish to various parts of the country due to the lack of transport facilities amid the countrywide lockdown.
And as the fishes remained unsold while feeding and maintenance costs increased, farmers incurred serious losses and ultimately had to sell their fish at throwaway prices, Saha added.
There are around 112,000 fish farmers in the district who mostly hail from the Trishal, Gouripur, Phulpur, Tarakanda, Bhaluka and Muktagacha upazilas. There are also some 295 hatcheries and 1,043 nurseries in the district.
Mymensingh's aquaculture industry faced losses of Tk 400 crore amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The region produces around 3.95 lakh tonnes of fish each year against local demand of 1.26 lakh tonnes, according to the district fisheries officer.
The surplus is supplied to different districts in the country, including Dhaka. But in some cases, farmers do not get fair prices for their hard work.
For example, fishes are sold for nearly half their retail value as middlemen eat up a lion's share of the profits, local farmers said.
For sustainable and safe production, fair prices should be ensured. Besides, a fish processing zone and cold storages should be set up in Mymensingh in order to support the industry.
And other than ensuring proper monitoring of feed prices, the authorities should widen the scope for export, they added.
Farmers in the region also urged for their problems to be addressed on a priority basis while saying that easy access to finance would help them cope with the situation.
Tofail Ahmed, senior fisheries officer of Trishal upazila, said around 7,500 fish farmers in the region faced losses amid the pandemic and the price hike of fish feed will surely hamper their recovery, especially that of small and marginal farmers.
The aquaculture industry in Mymensingh employs around seven lakh people, many of whom may lose their jobs or face a financial crisis if the industry is severely affected, he added.
Talking to this correspondent, Khaled Masud Sujon, an executive of Quality Feeds, said the price of fish feed increased significantly in one year due to the price hike of raw materials like soybean, rice bran, oil cakes, maize and others.
At present, there is no sign that the price will reduce as the price of raw materials is increasing, the official said, adding that the situation would worsen if costs were not immediately contained.
Md Aminul Islam(2022, April 6). Price hike of fish feed keeps farmers in trouble. The Daily Star. https://www.thedailystar.net/business/economy/news/price-hike-fish-feed-keeps-farmers-trouble-2998931