Mamata tames pricey hilsa?


Kolkata : By a curious coincidence, within days of new Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee shooting off a missive to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to help lower the price of Bangladeshi hilsa, the hugely popular but expensive fish now costs less.

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A steady flow of the fish from Bangladesh as well as from within the country has brought down the prices from around Rs.1,000-1,200 a kg at the beginning of this month to almost Rs.500 now.

“Earlier a kg of the fish fetched us around Rs.1,000 but now we are selling the same between Rs.550 to 500,” said a fish seller in Bijoygarh Market here.

Does Banerjee have anything to do with this?

Well, she did write to Manmohan Singh Banerjee urging him to request his Bangladeshi counterpart to lower the minimum export price of the fish, which Bengalis on this side of the border drool over.

The hilsa catch from Bangladesh’s Padma river has as much appeal for the sentiments of people here as for their appetites. So a dip in the price of hilsa is sure to make fish-loving Bengalis salivate.

Between July and September, the consumption of the fish is almost 100 tonnes per day in West Bengal, with 70 percent of the requirement fulfilled by imports from Bangladesh. The rest is from the catch at Digha and Diamond Harbour and Mumbai.

The hilsa is a sea fish that migrates to the rivers for for spawning, but it is facing extinction due to a fishing overkill.

Concerned over the rising demand of the fish from Bangladesh, the state government is mulling over giving geographical indication (GI) status to the Indian “ilish”, as the Bengalis call it.

State Fisheries Minister Abu Henna replied in the affirmative when asked if the Indian variety of the fish would be given GI status. With GI status, the fishing of young hilsa which are yet to breed – locally called khoka ilish – can be regulated.