Devastated shrimp industry
It is disconcerting news that the shrimp industry in the southern districts received a big blow when hurricane Sidr struck last Thursday night in the coastal areas where the hatcheries are located. The waves and winds combined together to generate a force too formidable for the hatcheries to withstand. As a result, within hours, high quality shrimp varieties including Black Tiger got washed away to the sea causing a loss of about Tk. 250 crore. Besides, factory buildings and other infrastructures also suffered heavy damage that have to be rebuilt all over again. Understandably, shrimp farmers who had taken advance loan from the exporters will now find them in trouble for no fault of theirs.
According to shrimp farmers and exporters, the damage caused by hurricane to the third largest foreign currency-earning sector of the country has pushed them to the brink, as price in the international market has declined in the first quarter of this fiscal and the demand for the commodity is also not quite encouraging. It is disheartening news indeed that the frozen food sector is most likely to fail to achieve the export target set for this fiscal. But it is worth mentioning here that the sector had earned $515 million from exports in the last fiscal - 2006-2007, and the target for this fiscal is $ 600 million.
The importance of the sector therefore clearly determines the priority of the government in salvaging it from the predicament it faces at the moment. It is needless to say that farmers and exporters will welcome all possible help from the government, banks, insurance companies and other agencies involved to generate hope and vigour so essential to make a quick turn-around. We understand a team of the Directorate of Fisheries (DoF) is in the filed at the moment to make damage assessment. We appreciate that they have started the work early in the day but we wish to urge that the work should be expedited with recommendations forwarded to the relevant quarters.
The next three months are said to be crucial for the farmers; therefore, we feel the imperatives of damage control and arranging the needed finance should be addressed by the government without any loss of time.