Hundreds of families in Netrakona haor areas have been drying fishes in traditional way and there is a bright prospect of this produce if this business is supported and properly monitored by the government, said the fishermen.
It is an ancestral profession for many families for survival and this business is profitable one as the demand of dry fishes,especially of country varieties is ever increasing, said Md Mujibur Rahman, upazila fisheries officer in Khaliajury of Netrakona.
The families involved with this business mainly belong to fishermen families and they both catch and buy fishes to dry up. Local Dingaputa Haor, Boali Haor, Chhayer Haor, Kirtankhola Haor; and the rivers- Dhanu, Moghra, Satmadhalai and Kongsha flowing through the haor areas are the sources of fishes.
The dry fishes are mainly prepared in Boali, Ziakhara, Khaliajury Bazar, Lepsia Bazar and Ballabpur in Khaliajury; in Borokashia, Gaglajur, Borantor in Mohanganj upazila, and Singdha and Alokdia of adjacent Barhatta, sources said.
In September, there are huge catches of indigenous varieties offishes in the haor areas. The season is the peak hours for the fishermen to start drying up fishes. They also buy fishes to gear up their business. The season continues till February.
For drying up the fishes in traditional way, the fishermen set up bamboo platform in the open field adjacent to their houses and spread the fishes on the mats on the platforms.
The fishes on the platformsare covered with nets so that the birds, especially crows cannot eat up the dry fishes.
After drying the fishes, these are taken to local bazaars where buyers coming from different areas of the country including Mymensingh, Sherpur, Jamalpur, Kishoreganj and Dhaka come to buy the delicacy, said the farmers.
As the dry country fishes of different varieties are very tasty, they have a good demand in Mymensingh region and outer districts for decades, said Mohsin Mia, a journalist in Khaliajury.
Fishermen sell the fishes between Tk 200 to Tk 400 per kg according to the variety but the fishes are sold in the markets at high prices, said the journalist.
As there is no way for the poor fishermen to manage the cost to transport the fishes to different districts, so the middlemen eat up the lion's share of their profit, the journalist said.
If the government helps the fishermen, they will get a fair price of their produce. They are involved in this profession for decades but there is no change in their lives due to the absence of a proper marketing system, said the fishermen.
Ashraful Kabir, senior fisheries officer in Netrakona's Mohanganj said the farmers are advised to produce quality dry fishes in hygienic atmosphere.
If the farmers could use dryer machines in tin-shed house, they could be able to dry fishes in many folds, accelerating their business, said the official.
Around 300 metric tonnes of dry fishes of different species like puti, chingri, shol, boal, batashi, tengra, chanda and other species are produced in Khaliajury, Mohanganj and a part of Barhatta every year, said the official.
Talking to this correspondent, Moti Barman of Gaglajur village said he has been involved withthe profession since his boyhood.
"I have so far prepared 350 maundsof chayapashutkithis season. The demand is four times higher but I could not meet the rest of the demand due to financial crisis", said a 55-year-old Moti.
Over the profit, the fishermen said the profit depends on the weather condition of the year. If the farmers can harvest a good boro production, the business sees a better way as dry fishes have also a good demand in Netrakona, said Moti.
Billal Hossain, 65, of Dewkhan village said though it was not his ancestral profession but he has been involved with this for 14 years.
Actually, the people involved with this profession are poor and have to depend on money from local middlemen and theyenjoy the maximum profit, said Billal, a father of three children.
Many have to take loan from different non-government organizations (NGOs) to support the family and the businessand it deprives them of a good profit, said a 55-year-old Banu Begum of Borantor.
If the government provides loan on soft interest and easy terms, the farmers can make a good profit every year, said the fishermen.
Hundreds of women are also involved in cutting and cleaning fishes and they earn Tk 40,000 to Tk 50,000 per season (six months), said the fishermen.
MdShahjahan Kabir, senior assistant director of Departmentof Fisheries in Netrakona said over 1200 families are involved in making dry fish in Mohanganj, Khaliajury, Kendua, Barhatta, Madan, Kalmakanda and Purbadhala in the district.
We are planning to support the fishermen with facilities of cold storage, dryer machines and sheds so that they can get benefited. Asked if they have any plan to give soft loans to the fishermen, the official said they are considering the matter seriously.