Bangladesh has had the distinction of ranking amongst the top inland fish producing nations in the world. But the Covid-19 crisis, which has forced shutdown of economic activities, has put fish farmers in a difficult position. According to a report by this daily, fish farmers in Kishoreganj, Mymensingh and Netrokona are unable to harvest fish and sell them to different parts of the country—including Chattogram, Dhaka and Sylhet where they sell year-round—due to the dearth of buyers and an almost complete suspension of inter-district transportation. As a result, they are incurring heavy losses. On top of that, the farmers have to continue feeding the fish, instead of starting a new fish-rearing cycle. Farmers are also facing trouble finding labourers willing to harvest the fish as they are reluctant to come out and work due to the fear of the virus. According to a district fisheries officer, if the current situation prevails, fish farms in Mymensingh alone—with approximately 112,000 farmers—may suffer a loss of Tk 400 crore. Many farmers are facing the additional challenge of having to repay the money they had borrowed to invest in fish farming.
There are around 300 hatcheries and 900 nurseries in Bhaluka, Gouripur, Muktagachha, Phulpur, Tarakanda and Trishal upazilas; 250 nurseries and 12 hatcheries in Netrokona; and approximately 26,000 fish farmers in Netrokona and 27,000 in Kishoreganj. If the present situation continues, it will have a big impact on the overall food security of Bangladesh. The prime minister has already warned about the possibility of a global food scarcity as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
Even though a list of the fish farmers is being prepared by fisheries officials to be sent to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock for the financial assistance offered under stimulus packages declared by the PM to address the Covid-19 fallout, the outcome of it may be delayed. Needless to say, farmers of all sorts play an integral role in ensuring food security. Therefore, they must be given all necessary assistance promptly. We suggest that loan repayments for the fish farmers should also be deferred as of now. Removing the barriers for the farmers is extremely important and the authorities need to intervene in order to guarantee the continuity of fish production and survival of the fish farming communities.