The construction and operation of the Padma Bridge have brought about substantial improvements in the transportation of fish from the south-western districts of Khulna Division. The bridge has facilitated faster and more efficient movement of fish from the region to other districts and markets across the country. With the Padma Bridge, the transportation process has become smoother and more reliable, ensuring that fish reaches its destination in a timely manner. Each day, more than 140 metric tons of fish are efficiently transported to different districts across the country through the Padma Bridge.
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According to Raj Kumar Biswas, Assistant Director of the Directorate of Fisheries of Khulna Division, the fish production in the division reached 756,000 metric tons in the 2022-23 fiscal year, surpassing the 731,000 metric tons produced in the previous fiscal year of 2021-22. Among the ten districts in Khulna Division, white fish production reached 620,000 metric tons, shrimp production amounted to 115,000 metric tons, crab production reached 10,000 metric tons, and other fish accounted for 11,000 metric tons.
Khulna- a fish producing hub
The divisional fisheries office reports that white fish is produced in 243,000 ponds, lobster shrimp (Galda) in 110,000 enclosures (ghers), tiger shrimp (Bagda) in 112,000 enclosures, and mixed fish in 120,000 enclosures within the division.
The government has been actively involved in improving the livelihoods of fishermen, with the fisheries department providing training to enhance fish production. The benefits of the Padma Bridge have inspired young people in the south-western districts of Khulna Division to engage in fish enclosure farming, leading to Khulna’s prominent position in fish production.
Abdul Baki, Vice-President of the Frozen Foods Exporters Association, highlighted that the Padma Bridge has ushered in a new era for fish traders, fish farmers, importers, and exporters. He emphasized that the inauguration of the bridge has eliminated the possibility of fish rotting during transportation, ensuring the freshness and quality of the produce.
Fish production, including shrimp, has been increasing steadily due to the rapid transportation facilitated by the Padma Bridge. Baki noted that fishermen and fish traders are now interested in farming the white leg ‘vannamei’ shrimp variety due to its rapid growth and increased profitability.
He urged the government to take appropriate measures to establish hatcheries for ‘vannamei’ shrimp fry to ensure a significant increase in shrimp production.
Mahtab Uddin, a gher owner from Dumuria upazila, expressed the positive impact of the Padma Bridge on their business. Previously, they struggled to make marginal profits due to transportation delays through ferries, resulting in a significant percentage of white fish and shrimp rotting during transportation. However, since the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, such losses have been eliminated.
Expansion of success in other sectors
Apart from the fisheries sector, the Padma Bridge is expected to have a positive impact on other industries as well. For instance, the Khulna region exports jute worth around Tk500 crore (5 billion taka) annually via Mongla port. Traders also transport jute from other regions to Khulna by crossing the Padma.
Sheikh Syed Ali, chairman of the Bangladesh Jute Association (BJA), stated that the government has already implemented various measures to promote Bangladeshi jute in the global market. The launch of the Padma Bridge is expected to create more opportunities for the jute mills in Khulna.
In addition, the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Khulna reported that approximately 600 tonnes of agricultural products are transported to the capital daily from Khulna, Satkhira, and Bagerhat. Khulna serves as a transit point for agricultural products imported from India through the Bhomra land port in Satkhira, which are then distributed to other districts, including Dhaka.
Hafizur Rahman, deputy director of Khulna DAE, highlighted that the Khulna region itself produces a significant quantity of agricultural products. Dumuria upazila alone produces agricultural products worth about Tk500 crore annually, with a substantial portion of these products being transported to the capital.
The DAE also mentioned that watermelon cultivation covered 14,000 hectares of land in Khulna this year, amounting to a value of Tk1,700 crore. Hafizur Rahman explained that approximately 70% of these watermelons are sold in various markets in the capital. However, many farmers did not receive adequate prices this year due to a poor marketing system.
Southern farmers to get access of Dhaka market easily
The Padma Bridge is anticipated to bring about significant benefits for farmers and fishermen in the southern region of the country. Fishermen and traders in Barishal, a crucial location for the fisheries industry, currently face challenges in transporting fish to the capital and other major cities. It was a regular phenomenon that trucks carrying fish often faced delays at the ferry terminal, preventing timely delivery to Dhaka. However, with the Padma Bridge in operation, the transportation of fish to the Dhaka market has expedited, enabling them to fetch higher profits from selling fresh fish.
According to the local fisheries office, Barishal division produces 5-6 lakh (500,000-600,000) tonnes of fish annually. Fishermen in the division catch fish from the Bay of Bengal, local rivers, and other water bodies. The authorities are expressing their optimism that the bridge would also facilitate the establishment of new fish processing factories in the region.
Likewise, fish growers in Shariatpur, located 55 kilometers from the capital, believe that the Padma Bridge will create a market worth Tk550 crore (550 million taka) in Dhaka. According to fisheries data, the district annually produces 28,543 tonnes of fish. This includes 5,000 tonnes of hilsa, a prized fish variety, and 2,953 tonnes of other fish varieties. Despite the proximity of Shariatpur to Dhaka, the mighty Padma River has posed a significant geographical barrier for fish farmers. Due to the long-distance road transport to the capital, they have been compelled to sell their fish in different districts, such as Noakhali. However, transportation to these markets incurs higher costs while the rates are relatively low.
Fish traders highlighted that they currently send 60 tonnes of fish per day to the Noakhali market, valued at approximately Tk1.5 crore (15 million taka). Transporting one kilogram of fish to the Noakhali market costs Tk20, but with the Padma Bridge, the cost would be reduced to Tk8-Tk10 for Dhaka. Moreover, the capital offers fish prices that are at least Tk10 higher per kilogram. Shariatpur fish farmer Najir Hossain remarked that the combination of low-cost transport and favorable rates in the Dhaka market would lead to greater profits for them.
Vegetable growers in Shariatpur also anticipate improvements in their living standards through the Padma Bridge. Before the establishment of Padma Bridge, no trucks used to directly travel from Shariatpur to Dhaka, and wholesalers from the capital rarely visit them. Consequently, farmers were compelled to sell their agricultural produce to local middlemen at low prices. However, with the bridge’s opening, they are now able to sell their products at fair prices in Dhaka’s Karwan Bazar or Shyambazar, benefiting their livelihoods.
Jamal Hossain, the agriculture officer of Zajira Upazila in Shariatpur, explained that the improved transportation options would enable the cultivation of new crops in the region. Flowers, capsicum, mushrooms, broccoli, and other high-value crops are expected to be grown in Shariatpur. Additionally, the establishment of agro-processing units by entrepreneurs would ensure fair prices for farmers and create employment opportunities.
Gopalganj-Patuakhali’s fishing industry has the gains too
Patuakhali, a district located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, plays a significant role in fish production. Annually, the district produces around 1.23 lakh (123,000) tonnes of fish, with 36,000 tonnes consumed locally and the rest being sold in various parts of the country. In the past, local fishermen faced numerous challenges in selling their perishable products. However, with the launch of the Padma Bridge, direct shipping has become possible, leading fishermen to expand their farming capacities in anticipation of better prices and increased demand.
The district is abundant in natural water bodies, with 26 rivers, 563 canals, and 1.42 lakh (142,000) ponds, as reported by the District Fisheries Office. These water bodies contribute to the extraction of around 1.23 lakh tonnes of fish annually. Additionally, approximately 46,000 tonnes of hilsa fish are caught each year from the Bay of Bengal adjacent to Patuakhali. The district is home to around 70,000 registered fishermen.
The fishermen in the region catch various fish species from the sea. Hilsa is the most sought-after variety, while tuna, shrimp, pomfret, eel, and other species are also popular. Some fish are dried before being marketed during the dry season, while others are sold fresh. With the opening of the Padma Bridge, transportation challenges have resolved, allowing traders to bring fresh fish to the market and increase their profits.
Previously, transport delays, often caused by ferry problems, have resulted in rotten fish, depriving fishermen and traders of fair prices. However, with the Padma Bridge in operation, traders are now able to send their goods directly to specific destinations, benefiting them and strengthening the local fishing industry.
Fazlu Gazi, president of the Mahipur Fishermen’s Association near Kuakata, explained that during the hilsa season, trucks loaded with hilsa and other fish would often experience lengthy delays at the ferry ghat, leading to fish spoilage. Consequently, traders incurred losses as they couldn’t transport their fish to the market on time. However, with the Padma Bridge operational, transportation problems are no longer hinder them.
Around 400 fishing trawlers from the Kuakata area catch fish in the sea, employing 5,000 to 6,000 workers. The majority of the fish caught in the district is transported to the capital city, Dhaka, as well as other districts including Faridpur, Jhenaidah, Magura, Kushtia, Pabna, Rajshahi, and Rangpur. During the dry season, dried fish is primarily sent to nearby regions like Chattogram. With the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, it has become safer and more cost-effective to transport fish by truck from Kuakata to Dhaka.
With the opening of the Padma Bridge, fish farmers and fishermen in Gopalganj district are optimistic about a positive change in their fortunes. They expect to earn over Tk200 crore (2 billion taka) in profit from the fisheries sector.
Previously, due to the distance and reliance on intermediaries, many fish farmers sold their fish to different parts of the country, receiving only half the expected price. However, with the Padma Bridge, fishermen are hopeful that they can travel to Dhaka and directly sell their fish to buyers and consumers.
According to the Gopalganj Fisheries Office, fish farming is the second-largest source of income in the district, which is surrounded by water bodies such as haors, baors, ponds, and beels. More than 17,000 people from five upazilas in the district have become subsistence farmers through fish farming, as reported by District Fisheries Officer Biswajit Boiragi.
The district boasts 16,998 ponds and farms, with 16,185 farmers producing over 30,200 tons of fish annually. The fish varieties cultivated include Rohu, Catla, Mrigal carp, Pangas, Tilapia, and Grass carp. In total, various sources contribute to over 40,952 tons of fish production, which sell at an average price of Tk200 per kg. This results in an annual fish production value of over Tk819.4 crore (8.194 billion taka) in the district.