Eel export from Sakhipur has come to a halt due to the outbreak of coronavirus in China, which consumes around 90 per cent of the fish grown in the upazila in Tangail.
Eel fish worth around Tk 35-40 lakh is exported a month from the upazila, said Azahar Mia, a local trader.
Sakhipur upazila has around 200 fishermen who catch and sell eel to local traders for export via business houses based in Tongi and Dhaka.
"But no shipment was made since January 20 due to the coronavirus epidemic," Mia said.
Sakhipur has some 5-6 traders, who buy eel from fishermen at Tk 300-320 a kg and sell those to exporters at Tk 400 a kg, he said.
But the exporters are now offering only Tk 150 for each kg, Mia said, adding that the fishermen and traders fear massive losses as they have a huge quantity of eel in stock.
"The fish loses weight when stored for long and a major portion of our eel will die if shipment to China does not resume in a month."
For eel cultivation, fishermen usually borrow money from traders, who also take advance payments from exporters.
"All are now struggling to pay off loans," said Santosh Koch, another trader.
Eel fisherman Ratan Chandra Koch of Kalidas village in the upazila used to catch eel from local water bodies and earn Tk 500 to Tk 700 a day by selling those to local traders.
"I don't know how I will buy food for my family now as the traders have stopped taking eels from us."
However, as China has been able to contain the spread of the virus further, eel export may resume soon, said Mia.
"It is a temporary problem," said Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, upazila fisheries officer of Sakhipur.
"We hope the situation will improve in the days to come and exports will begin then."