Dark trade in shrimps
A group of middlemen injects water, jelly and glue-like substances into shrimps to boost their weight.
Shrimp exporters now fear they may lose overseas markets if such consignments are detected by importers abroad.
Shrimp processors in Khulna, the main shrimp growing region, have already suspended some shipments.
"We will be in trouble if our foreign buyers reject our consignments," said Kazi Belayet Hossain, owner of Chhobi Fish, a processed shrimp exporter.
â€œWe are worried.â€
The middlemen, not the farmers, are involved in the malpractice, said Hossain, also a former president of Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association.
The practice increases manifold when the harvest of big shrimps starts.
â€œWe are very anxious," said a top executive of Modern Sea Foods Industries, another shrimp exporter.
"It's not possible to detect the substances at the time of purchase," said the official, asking not to be named.
The government is also aware of the problem, said Nittya Ranjan Biswas, principal scientific officer of the Department of Fisheries.
The fisheries authority and other law-enforcement agencies, including the Rapid Action Battalion, regularly carry out drives against the dishonest traders, he said.
This year around, seven tonnes of shrimps injected with these substances were destroyed, and mobile courts fined the traders Tk 33 lakh, Biswas said.
Traders inject green jelly, gum and other substances into the shrimps, said a senior official of the fisheries department in Khulna, asking not to be named.
"We had earlier found barley and rice starch in the bodies of the shrimps," he said.
Traders involved in the malpractice are more organised now, said a salesman of Haji Arif Fish, an agent of some processors.
They now have a strong network and know about the drives in advance, he said.
Frozen shrimp and fish is the third biggest export earning sector of Bangladesh after garments and jute.
In the past several months, demand for locally grown black tiger shrimps has fallen amid an influx of vannamei, a shrimp variety that grows mainly in India and Thailand.
Export receipts fell 20 percent to $160.53 million in July-October of fiscal 2012-13 from $201.34 million in the same period a year ago, according to the Export Promotion Bureau.