Residents of Charlalpur village in Brahmanbaria’s Ashuganj upazila were once dependent on agriculture and fishing for their livelihood, but recently they have become more involved in dried fish business that brought prosperity to the area. The village every year produces dried fish worth around Tk100 crore which are supplied to local and foreign markets. Businessmen in the area said the product has a huge potential, but they cannot expand their enterprises due to a lack of access to financing. Almost 50% of the dried fish produced in Charlalpur is made of Puti fish. Apart from marketing dried Puti fish in different parts of the country, businessmen export it to India in large volumes.

Charlalpur’s dried fish business was severely damaged due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years. In the first year of the pandemic, the businesses there lost around Tk12 crore, and they did rebound in the second year of the pandemic. Dried fish producers in Charlalpur hope that their businesses will regain momentum from this year as the Covid-19 pandemic subsided.

People involved in the business said over 300 villagers get involved in collecting and processing different types of fish from October to March in each season. Currently, the Charlalpur businessmen sell dried Puti fish at Tk500-600, dried Tangra at Tk600-700 and dried Shol fish at Tk1,000-1,200, dried Baim fish at Tk1,500-1,700, dried Kaikka fish at Tk1,000-1,200, dried Goinna fish at Tk550-1,000 and dried Rui fish at Tk700 per kg.

Businessmen in the area said small entrepreneurs cannot take bank loans for dried fish businesses, so they take high-interest loans from cooperative societies and NGOs, which reduces their profit significantly. The dried fish producers in Charlalpur said easy bank loans and government assistance will enable them to expand their businesses. Dried fish producer Sukamal Das said every year he sells dried fish worth around Tk50 lakh. He plans to expand his business but cannot do it due to lack of capital. He said at present he has dried fish worth Tk15 lakh. After selling them, he will buy more fresh fish to dry them up. Another dried fish producer Nikhil Das said recently they have been spending more for collecting raw fish as the amount of fish caught from rivers and canals dropped in the last few years. Consequently, the cost of producing dried fish has increased too.

He said, “Most of our businessmen face a crisis of capital. Only some big businessmen can get loans from banks. Since there is no government patronage in the dry fish businesses, we cannot expand them. If the scale of business can be increased, it will generate employment for many people.” Ashuganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Arvind Biswas Bappi told The Business Standard, “We have arranged loans for businessmen in Charlalpur through officers of the Rural Development Board and the Department of Development. These organisations also arrange various training programmes for the dried fish producers. “Besides, we have written a letter to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock for dryer machines to dry up fishes. We are taking all the necessary steps for developing this business.”