Bangladesh crab exports recovering from pandemic loss

The recovery comes after the Department of Fisheries started issuance of certificates to exporters in line with the requirement of Chinese authorities regarding crabs and eel fish to facilitate exports.


Workers at a fishery in Pankhali union of Dakop upazila in Khulna are seen using traps to catch crabs from their enclosure on August 16, 2023. PHOTO: THE DAILY STAR

August 18, 2023

DHAKA – Crab exports, which lost momentum after the outbreak of Covid-19, have rebounded in terms of quantity, giving a new lease on life to growers in coastal districts who rear the sea creature to sell to exporters.

Over the last two fiscal years, Bangladesh shipped around 7,500 tonnes of crabs annually as exporters are sending the decapod crustaceans by complying with the rules of importing countries, mainly China, the key destination, according to data of the Department of Fisheries (DoF).

The fisheries office data showed that export of crabs was 7,452 tonnes in fiscal year (FY) 2022-23, which was slightly lower than the previous year but higher than three years ago.

However, data of the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data showed that export receipts from crabs fell 26 percent year-on-year to $8.7 million in FY23.

In July of FY23, crab exports surged 71 percent year-on-year to $940,000, EPB data shows.

The recovery comes after the DoF started issuance of certificates to exporters in line with the requirement of Chinese authorities regarding crabs and eel fish to facilitate exports.

In June 2020, China suspended the import of crabs and eel fish from Bangladesh following detection of lead and cadmium in some consignments.

“They are also getting better prices and farmers are showing renewed interest in rearing crab is it has become profitable. The mortality rate [of crabs produced] has also declined,” he added.

Bangladesh shipped 12,558 tonnes of crabs, the highest quantity on record, in fiscal year 2014-15. Later exports of the sea creature began to decline, causing losses for many crab farmers in the coastal belt, particularly Khulna, Bagerhat and Sathkhira in the southwest region.

Shipments have recovered since fiscal year 2022-21 thanks to the resumption of exports to China after the second biggest economy granted permission to five local exporters.

The number of exporters that got permission from China is 14 now. Additionally, the applications of 18 firms are under review by the Chinese authority.

“We are receiving higher export orders this year than the previous year,” said Shakawat Hossain Sumon, general secretary of the Bangladesh Live and Chilled Food Exporters Association.

He said they export 90 percent of the crabs produced to China.

“Thailand and Malaysia are the two other main destinations for us,” he added.

Crab is an expensive but popular food in China. At present, Bangladesh has to compete with exporters from Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar and India in the Chinese market, Sumon said.

Jahidur Rahman Milton, a crab grower at Pankhali union in Dacope upazila of Khulna, which is near the country’s biggest mangrove forest Sundarbans, said many farmers suspended rearing crabs after suffering losses resulting from the dip in exports, particularly in 2020 and 2021.

“But we saw demand for crab recovered sharply since last year. The buoyancy in demand and prices is continuing this year. We are receiving better prices too,” he said, adding that he doubled the number of hatcheries to four this year from two the previous year.

“Many farmers in our area are preparing to resume crab farming this year,” said Milton, who could return to black last year thanks to the resurgence in exports.

Generally, farmers rear small crabs caught from rivers and natural water bodies for nearly three months to December targeting the main sales season, January-March, when the Lunar New Year is celebrated in East and Southeast Asia, including China, he added.

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