The monsoon delicacy Hilsa, without which a Bengali platter is never complete, has been selling between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 1,500 and a state minister says the silvery delight will continue to be elusive as its prices soar courtesy a truant monsoon and decline in imports.
"The spurt in the prices has been mostly because of the alarming decline in the supply of the fish from both internal and external sources. The fall of the rupee has also contributed as imports from Bangladesh are paid in dollars," West Bengal Fisheries minister Abu Henna told IANS.
In city markets, the prices of the Hilsa have been ranging between Rs. 1,000- Rs. 1,500 depending upon the size and quality of the fish. The prices of the fish, which are normally exported by Bangladesh at $8-$12 per kg have also gone up sharply, said the minister.
While the scanty rainfall has resulted in decline in spawning of the fish within the country, a temporary ban on the export of the Hilsa by Bangladesh has compounded the misery.
"The fish is spawned mostly in the Hooghly in the east and Narmada in the west. The scanty rainfall has resulted in a sharp decline in their breeding, which is why the supply has been so low," said Henna, adding that the catch from the Hooghly this year has gone below 20,000 tonnes, while in the previous year it was close to 60,000 tonnes.
On the brighter side, however, the minister hoped the supply would improve after Eid when Bangladesh is expected to resume the export of the fish.
"We hope the situation will improve after Ramzan. We are also exploring other avenues to increase the supply, but it all depends upon the monsoon," Henna added.