M. H. Bari
Bangladesh's shrimp industry has long been playing a significant role in the national economy. There are 162 fish processing plants in the country, out of which 78 are approved by the government and 74 are approved by the European Union (EU). Processing capacities of the plants are about 300 thousand metric tons, whereas the country is producing only about 200 thousand metric tons of shrimps, including those collected from both fresh water and seawater sources. Due to the scarcity of raw materials, we always witness unhealthy competition.
Our shrimps, which are naturally produced and have got good texture and taste, have become a special attraction for the EU, US and Japanese people. Bangladeshi frozen shrimps are contributing about 3.0 per cent to the global shrimp market. Shrimp exports from Bangladesh have already found a distinctive place in the global market.
Frozen shrimps are considered as the second largest export sector in the country. About 120 million people are directly or indirectly dependent on the shrimp industry. There has been a spectacular growth in the shrimp sector. In the 2010-2011 financial year, about 200 million pounds of frozen shrimps were exported and the export earning stood at US$ 611 million.
But this sector has become a subject of great concern for the country and the countries overseas. These days, it is said that shrimp culture will not be ecologically sustainable, and the sector has become a target of attack by environmentalists. It is also said that the growth of shrimp farms has prompted many 'social-geological ills'. The shrimp industries are grossly blamed for degradation of mangrove forests, deterioration in law and order, violation of human rights and women's insecurity. However, these problems are quite old and complicated, and the shrimp farms alone cannot be blamed for these. The allegations have some truth in them, but these are not fully factual. We may discuss the situation from a practical point of view.