Coronavirus outbreak: Khulna’s crab, eel trade losing Tk 4cr every day

Crabs worth US$ 2.68 million were exported in the last five months of 2019. Photo: Dipankar Roy

Thousands of farmers and traders in Khulna region are incurring losses worth Tk four crore every day as crab and eel exports to China have been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The country, where the outbreak has so far claimed 722 lives, is the main international market for crab and eel. Traders claim that China has stopped taking the items from Bangladesh.

Crabs are exported to China, Taiwan, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Australia. Of the total crab exported from Bangladesh, around 85 percent goes to China.

Traders at eel and crab markets in Rupsha and Paikgaccha of Khulna were mostly sitting idle as there was no trade going on with wholesalers and exporters.

"High price in foreign markets has resulted in a growing popularity in crab farming in the last four to five years," said Debabrata Das Debu, president of Paikgaccha Crab Businessmen Cooperative Society Ltd.

"Around 25 tonnes of crab are sent from Khulna region to Dhaka every day. Of this, around eight tonnes come from Satkhira district, six tonnes from Bhaga of Bagerhat district and seven tonnes from Khulna," he said.

Over 21,000 crab farmers in Khulna and Satkhira districts now fear they will incur loss due to the postponement of export.

Crabs are ready to be exported in three months, according to farmers.

Female crabs, weighing over 200 grammes, sell for Tk 2,500 per kg each, while it is Tk 2,200 per kg for those weighing 180-200 grammes each. Male crabs sell for Tk 1,800 per kg for those weighing above 500 grammes each.

Crabs worth US$ 2.68 million were exported in the last five months of 2019, according to the Export Promotion Bureau office in Khulna.

"Over 200 businessmen are involved in eel trading in the region, sending around 10 tonnes of eel to Dhaka daily," said Mrinal Kanti Dey, proprietor of New Mama Enterprise and vice-president of Sundarban Crab and Fisheries Cooperative Society.

"I usually trade around 800-900 kg everyday but now it has come down to 200-250 kg as export to foreign markets, especially China, has stopped since January 25," he said.