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HindustanTimes Sat,02 Aug 2014

An eye for an eye: No onions for banning hilsa

Ravik Bhattacharya , Hindustan Times  Kolkata, August 21, 2013
First Published: 00:54 IST(21/8/2013) | Last Updated: 01:47 IST(21/8/2013)

Revenge is a dish best served without onions. A year after Bangladesh banned the export of hilsa fish or ilish to India, on Monday traders here in India stopped exporting onions to Dhaka.

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“There’s no point in exporting onions to Bangladesh, because there’s a high domestic demand and the government has fixed the minimum price. Moreover, why do you forget the hilsa experience?” Pankaj Roy, member, Bharat-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce told HT.

The hilsa is a sea fish but it lays eggs in large rivers. The fry (young fish) then head for the sea, but are often caught before. The hilsa from Bangladesh’s Padma river is a much-relished delicacy in Bengali homes.

But in 2007, the Bangladesh government stipulated that no one could sell hilsa weighing between 500 gm and a kilo for less than $6 (then one USD = R47-48) and the floor price was $12 for anything more than 1.5kg. And then in July 2012, the country banned exports to India, citing high demand of the fish during Ramzan. The ban is still in force.

“The government has fixed the export rate. We can’t sell at a lower price. With some exporters, it’s also likely that truckloads of onions are stranded at various land ports. They’ll rot soon, so exporters are being forced to sell in the domestic market. Earlier, 1,000-1,500 tonnes of onions were exported to Bangladesh each day. The current figure is a mere 5% of that,” said Debasish Saha of Krishna Traders, an onion exporter.

Bangladesh, which depended on India for its onions, is now looking to Mynamar for supply.


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