Frozen fish exports rebound, hit 6-year high

Frozen fish exports from Bangladesh rebounded and a hit six-year high in the just concluded fiscal year powered by an increase in the price of black tiger shrimp and freshwater prawn farmed in the Southern coastal region.

Exporters fetched $532 million by shipping frozen fish abroad in fiscal 2021-22, posting growth of 12 per cent year-on-year from $477 million previously, showed data from the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).

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The latest proceeds are the highest since fiscal 2016-17, when Bangladesh registered $526 million in export receipts from frozen fish.

Bangladesh’s frozen fish exports were on the decline a year after overall receipts touched $638 million in the fiscal 2013-14 as locally grown black tiger shrimp and freshwater prawn faced stiff competition from the cheaper vannamei shrimp grown in large quantities in India, China, Vietnam and Thailand.

The trend reversed in the last fiscal year.

“The main reason is the increase in prices,” said Md Amin Ullah, president of the Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association (BFFEA).

He said the recovery in shipments started since 2021 as demand for shrimp and its prices shot up in the main markets, such as Europe, owing to supply disruptions caused by Covid-19.

“There were media reports of empty shelves in stores due to the supply disruption and our exports grew under such a situation,” he said.

“We also saw growth in export volume to some extent and so, that was a good year,” Ullah said, adding that shrimp prices have risen by $2-3 per kilogramme.

However, the flow of orders in the current fiscal year is not as promising.

Exporters said the Russia-Ukraine war, rising cost of US dollars resulting from the weakening of most currencies including the euro and British pound, inflation and fears of recession in major economies have cast uncertainty on export prospects.

They went on to say the war in Ukraine has affected shipments to Russia.

“We have been seeing the opposite scenario since the beginning of the new fiscal year,” Ullah said.

Besides, buyers are not offering the same prices as before and have also reduced the order quantity, citing that they are heading for recession.

Buyers also have to pay higher amounts of euros to buy shrimp in dollars, he added.

“The purchasing power of consumers in both the US and Europe are falling because of high inflation. Shrimp is not an essential commodity. So, its demand is likely to fail,” said a leading exporter based on Chattogram.

BFFEA President Amin said, “I am afraid we may not be able to retain the same levels of export this year.”

S Humayun Kabir, vice president of BFFEA, said overall export orders have dipped by nearly 40 per cent in the current fiscal year beginning from July.

“The situation in the new year is terrible,” he added.

Kabir then said the recovery in export earnings from frozen fish was not that high and overall receipts were still below the previous record.

“We have to increase technological know-how and make more value-added products,” he added.

Amin demanded the government increase the cash subsidy for exports to compete with exporters in other countries.

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