17m people depended on fisheries
Staff correspondent: The fisheries sector plays a very important role in the national economy, contributing 4.39 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and about 2.79 percent of country’s export value comes from the inland fisheries sector. A total of 17 million people (1.4 million women) depending on fisheries sector for their livelihoods through fishing, farming, fish handling, and processing in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is considered one of the most suitable regions for fisheries in the world, with the world’s largest flooded wetland and the third largest aquatic biodiversity in Asia after China and India. Already, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has mentioned that Bangladesh as the third top aquaculture fish producing country.
A ministry official said, Bangladesh’s agricultural sector contributes 14.20 percent of GDP, employing 47 percent of the working population, with 17 million people (1.4 million women) depending on fisheries sector for their livelihoods through fishing, farming, fish handling, and processing. Agricultural sector has experienced significant growth over the last couple of decades, with the fisheries sector following suit.
According to the data from the Yearbook of Fisheries Statistics, the current Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for the fisheries sector is 5.28 percent over the last 10 years. According to industry estimates, fish production will reach 5.02 million metric tons within the current fiscal 2020-21.
According to the latest data of Export promotion Bureau (EPB), country’s export earnings from fisheries sector was $456 million against the target worth $520 million in the just concluded fiscal 2019-20. The export from fisheries sector declined by 12.82 percent from the target of the last fiscal. Stakeholders said, the export declined for COVID-19 outbreak, otherwise it would possible to achieve such target.
However, out of the total export, shrimp gained the highest earning amounting at $332.65 million, followed by $11.43 million for live fish, $75.29 million for frozen fish, $24.85 million for crabs and $11.93 million for others.
Industry insiders said, despite shrinking water bodies for fish cultivation, sustained growth has been possible due to the use of better inputs and modern technology contributing to higher yield. Although the country has gained self-sufficiency in terms of agricultural production, the population is growing and will reach 185 million by 2030. To this end, there needs to be further increase in productivity to account for the growing population. Interest-free loans and some compensation can ensure more fish production for the growing people.
Fish is the second most valuable agricultural crop in Bangladesh and its production contributes to the livelihoods and employment of millions of people. The culture and consumption of fish therefore has important implications for national income and food security. Bangladesh has already emerged a self-sufficient country in fish production, with a per capita fish consumption of 62.58 g/day against a set target of 60 g/day.
However, the fisheries industry in Bangladesh is confronted with a range of economic, institutional and environmental concerns.
Meanwhile, the shrimp is the third most important source of foreign exchange earnings. Shrimp export was $ 332.65 million in 2019-20 against its target worth $361 million which means that export of shrimp declined by 36.14 percent. In this backdrop, shrimp export was $543.84 million in FY2012-2013.
Ashraf Hossain Masud, Senior Vice President, Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association (BFFEA) said, shrimp exports have declined both in terms of value and volume. Actually, the production of black tiger and galda has dwindled because of shrinking of farming area, seed crisis and price fall, he explained. On the other hand, Bangladesh’s competitors, including Vietnam, Thailand and India, are cultivating vannamei that gives higher production than Bangladeshi black tiger.
The production has declined due to traditional cultivation methodology, which caused negative growth, he said, adding modern technology needs to be applied for shrimp cultivation.
The shrimp industry also provides direct employment to over 1 million people who in turn support well over 3.5 million dependents. This sector also supports large varieties of ancillary industries including shrimp processing plant, feed mills and ice plants to produce best quality shrimp.
According to a Daily Industry report, Bangladesh’s shrimp exports have reportedly fallen in volume by approximately 34 percent after losing its traditional markets in the US and the EU.
Rawnak Mahmud, Secretary for Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock said that the government has taken measures to save the country’s fisheries sector from the possible financial damages caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the move, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock has taken short, mid and long-term measures to help save the sector from the pandemic fallout.
The measures include exemption of interests against bank loans and giving incentives to fish farmers, fishermen and shrimp exporters to keep the production wheel of the sector running.
He said the Fisheries and Livestock Ministry also requested the stakeholders and concerned government departments to help the fish farmers and fishermen gear up fish production.
“We also proposed the government to provide partial financial support to the fish farmers and fishermen so that they could buy fish feeds and others inputs for fish production”, he added.
According to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) study, 54 floodplain fish species are in danger of extinction and the pressure of fishing is so heavy in the floodplains that less than 2 percent of produced fish survives the end of each year.
Experts identified that water pollution is another growing threat for the future of fisheries sector in Bangladesh and is fast becoming a serious public health issue and a constraint for food production. Industrial (especially textile and tannery) effluent, fertilizer and pesticide run-off, poor sewerage infrastructure and improper disposal of household waste are the major causes of water pollution in Bangladesh. Rivers and canals near the urban areas are threatened by sedimentation and siltation due mainly to soil erosion, and compounded by industrial expansion, most of these water bodies have already become too polluted to support biological system.
Experts said, poor urban and industrial management and lack of enforcement of environmental laws are contributing to this pollution spree. Besides these natural and chemical events, inadequate financial capacities, poor resources management and lack of research facilities are also responsible for underperformance of the fisheries sector and environmental degradation.
In order to meet the soaring demand for food for the burgeoning population, there is a need for increased rice and fish production in Bangladesh. But attention should also be given to the negative environmental externalities such as land and water biodiversity and water and air pollution which is inextricably linked with the success of agricultural sector.