Hefty demand of “illegal tax” from a group of goons three weeks back has led to fish export and import activities coming to a halt at Agartala-Akhaura International Check Post (ICP). As a result, fish markets in Tripura are reeling under severe crisis.
A report published in the The Indian Express stated that Bangladeshi traders had stopped exporting fish to the State after 10,000 kg of fishes were rendered unfit for consumption on September 4 last. A group of goons had demanded “hefty illegal tax” and had stalled the passage of the supply. While negotiations failed, the entire bulk of fish worth $26,000 decomposed. Since then, no more consignments of fish have come from Bangladesh.
The report further said that traders from Tulsibati market and Battala market said the prices of fishes like Rohu, Katla and prawns have nearly doubled and the supply of others like ‘Bhetki’ – a famous freshwater fish – has stopped. Adhir Das, a fish seller at Battala market, said fishes and prawns are being sold at a steadily increasing rate since September 4 last. “Fish prices are on the rise. We don’t have enough local production of fishes in Tripura. So, when the supply gets hit, prices go high following which there are few buyers,” Das said.
Samiran Das, a fish trader at Tulsibati market, said that the supply of ‘Bhetki’ fish have completely stopped since the import of fishes from Bangladesh took a hit. “We have Rohu, Katla and other fishes which are locally grown. Some fishes are also brought from Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and other States. But fish varieties like Bhetki are no more available,” he said.
Rohu fishes are being sold at Rs 250-300 per kg instead of Rs 150 which was the standard price a month ago. The price of Katla fishes has increased from Rs 200 to Rs 300 per kg. Similarly, the rate of ‘Pabda’, a cultured fish, has increased by Rs 200; it earlier cost Rs 500 per kg. Prawns and shrimps, which were sold at Rs 500 per kg in August, are now being sold at Rs 600, depending on the size and quality.
Salim Shah, an Assistant Professor of Economics at Tripura Central University, said the stalemate in fish import could adversely affect the local market. He added that the adverse exchange value of the rupee and US dollar has caused prices of different commodities to increase in the international market, which would further affect border trade of fishes.
“Stalemate of fish import should be resolved soon. There are festivities coming ahead and the demand for fish is likely to increase. Historically, we have a higher demand for fish from Bangladesh compared to those from Andhra Pradesh and other States. If the crisis continues, the price of fishes might spiral out of the reach of commoners,” Shah said.
Agartala-Akhaura Export Import Sangha Secretary Khokan Bhowmik said 25 metric tonnes of fish worth Rs 75 lakh was imported from Bangladesh on a daily basis. The stoppage of business has resulted in a loss of nearly Rs eight crores in the last three weeks.
“A trouble-mongering racket was active in the ICP for the last six months. They gained a bit of strength and created this nuisance. The absence of imported fish exerts pressure on the local market and prices go high,” Bhowmik said.
A Land Port Authority of India (LPAI) official said a series of meetings were organised with the Bangladeshi traders to resolve the crisis but in vain. “In the beginning, they refused to export any commodity. After a series of meetings, they relented and agreed to export anything but fish. The last meeting was held on September 24 last. I am informed that discussions are still not completed,” the official said, preferring anonymity.
The next meeting between border traders of Bangladesh and India, who operate through the Agartala-Akhaura ICP, will be held on September 28 next.