Bangladeshi hilsa is considered a delicacy in West Bengal, and people are willing to pay high prices for it. ‘Padmar ilish’ (hilsa from river Padma in Bangladesh) is believed to be of superior quality in taste.
“The special permission was signed last (Thursday) night and we were informed about it,” said Syed Anwar Maqsood, secretary, Fish Importers’ Association. “Nearly 200 fish exporters from Bangladesh had sought permission from the government to export fish to India. Out of them only nine have been given permission. The entire quantity will land in Kolkata by next week. It will enter West Bengal through the Benapole-Petrapole border.”
There is a huge demand for hilsa fish from Bangladesh among Bengalis living in different parts of the country, said Maqsood.
The hilsa that will come from Bangladesh will vary between 800 and 1,200 grams. “The wholesale rate of hilsa will be around Rs 800-1,400 per kg depending upon the size,” said Maqsood, who is also the secretary of Howrah Wholesale Fish Market.
In 2019, the Sheikh Hasina government had lifted the export ban on hilsa for a temporary period from September 28 to October 10 and had sent 500 tonnes of hilsa fish as a Durga Puja gift. But after October 10 exports to India completely stopped again.
This year the supply of hilsa from West Bengal has not been encouraging. The landing has been less. Only four-five days ago, fishermen were able to catch around 150 tonnes of hilsa which is inadequate to meet the demand from the state alone.
Hilsa fish has been entering India from Bangladesh through the illegal route. The Border Security Force (BSF) had seized 200 kg of the prized hilsa fish on September 4 while it was being smuggled into India from Bangladesh through the border in West Bengal, said an official.
A BSF patrol team, on noticing that four-five persons were trying to wade through a water body with loads on their heads towards India from Bangladesh in the Kalyani border outpost area, tried to stop them. They managed to flee the spot, but left their belongings behind, said a BSF official, who did not wish to be identified. The BSF team recovered four big plastic containers hidden under water hyacinth, with 200 kg hilsa worth around Rs 2.4 lakh in the Indian market.
The seized fish was handed over to the customs office at Petrapole. The BSF has seized 2,800 kg of hilsa fish so far this year while being smuggled into India from Bangladesh, said the official.