The domestic demand for freshwater prawns, grown mainly to cater to the export market, is rising on the back of growing consumption by urbanites, said sector insiders.
“This trend is likely to continue rising due to the growing middle and affluent classes in urban Bangladesh,” said the Food and Agriculture Organisation in a report titled Shrimp Market Focus: Bangladesh.
Grown mainly in the southwest division of Khulna for the export market, freshwater prawn's demand rose locally in the wake of a slump in its prices in the global market in recent years.
The prices of freshwater shrimp, locally known as galda, dropped to $7 per pound (6-8 pieces) in the international market from $12 per pound two years ago, said Shoyeb Mahmud, general manager of Jahanabad Seafood.
“This has an impact on domestic consumption,” he added.
In recent years, the demand for freshwater prawns in Bangladesh has evolved strongly in the country's domestic fishery trade, the FAO report said.
The local demand gets priority over exports due to the good retail prices.
Supplies from the main producing southern regions, Khulna and Barisal, are diverted to the country's largest urban consumer base in Dhaka as well as to the popular tourist destinations in Chittagong, Cox's Bazar and Sylhet. During the 2016 production season, which starts from October and goes on to December, the retail prices of large-sized, head-on prawn (4-5 pieces per kg) in Dhaka ranged from $20-25 per kg, according to the FAO report.
The retail prices for the medium and smaller sizes ranged from $7–12 per kg.
In comparison, the export price for headless shell-on shrimps to the US was $22 per kg, the report added.
“Once we saw high demand for small prawns in Dhaka, but now it's for the larger shrimps,” said Hawladar Nurul Islam, a fish and crab wholesaler and supplier at Bagerhat, a southwest district where both brackish- and fresh-water shrimps are farmed.
Islam said his daily supplies to his clients in Dhaka rose three times to 400 kilograms from 3-4 years ago.
“Hotels, particularly the Chinese restaurants, in Dhaka are one of the main buyers of the prawn,” he said.
Bangladesh produced 1.25 lakh tonnes of shrimp, mainly brackish water black tiger bagda from 2.75 lakh hectares area in fiscal 2015-16.
Freshwater prawn production was 46,189 tonnes, up 10 percent from fiscal 2014-15, according to data from the Department of Fisheries (DoF).
Some 7,626 tonnes of prawn was exported, which was 16 percent of the total production recorded in fiscal 2015-16, according to DoF data.
Shrimp farming area also rose 16 percent year-on-year to 68,746 hectares in fiscal 2015-16, according to the DoF.
As galda shrimp can be grown in fresh water, its farming is rising in various districts up north as well as in districts under Dhaka division, said Qazi Shams Afroz, deputy director (shrimp) of the DoF.
“Once it was a wild catch. But now, the availability of the prawn has increased due to higher farming and production,” said Abul Bashar, deputy managing director of Lockpur Group, a top frozen and seafood exporter.
“Farmers show interests to cultivate prawn in sweet water along with other fishes because of higher demand,” he said, adding that one of the problems facing the sector is a lack of adequate and quality post larva.
The demand for shrimp is huge in the local market and the prices remain higher because of inadequate supply, said Anwar H Sikder, president of Dhaka City Small Fish Traders Association.