As much as 1,450 metric tonnes of Bangladeshi hilsa is expected to hit markets in West Bengal ahead of the Pujas, a piece of good news for Bengalis amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

For the first time since 2012, when Bangladesh had banned the export of hilsa fish to India, the government of the neighbouring country has given special permission for the export of the much-loved delicacy to India.

The export wing under the Bangladeshi commerce ministry on Thursday approved nine private agencies in the country to export around 1,450 MT of hilsa to India from next week.

“It will be the biggest ever consignment of Bangladeshi hilsa hitting markets in Kolkata and other towns since 2012. The Bangladesh government has responded to our requests seeking hilsa for Bengal and approved nine agencies in their country to export the item to India,” Anwar Muqsood, secretary of both the Fish Importers’ Association and Howrah Wholesale Fish Market, told The Statesman today.

“We are getting 1,450 MT hilsa next week in different phases till the Durga Puja festival though the ban on exporting the fish to India is still on. We are thankful to the Bangladesh government for responding to our letters to their commerce ministry,” said Muqsood, who will be getting more than 75 per cent of the total consignment.

He said that exorbitant prices of hilsa in the city market would also come down once the Bangladeshi hilsa land in Bengal. The price of Bangladeshi hilsa would come down to Rs 1,200 per kg for bigger sizes and Rs 8,00 per kg for smaller sizes, weighing 700 to 800 grams, he added. Ganga hilsa and sea hilsa are being sold in Kolkata markets at between Rs 1,500 and Rs 1,800 per kg.

The Border Security Force (BSF) seized close to 2,800 kg of Bangladeshi hilsa in the last seven months, in a rare example of ‘reverse smuggling’.

About a week ago BSF troops at the Kalyani border outpost (BOP) in Nadia district in the southern part of the India Bangladesh frontier seized 200 kg of hilsa worth Rs 2,40,000 (price at source).

The smugglers had been wading through a water body near the border, a senior BSF official said. Bangladeshi hilsa, ‘Padmar ilish’ (hilsa from river Padma in Bangladesh) is believed to be of superior quality in taste. Bangladesh banned its export about eight years ago, and supply resumed only briefly in 2019.