Cover Image
close this bookHandling, Processing and Marketing of Fish in Bangladesh - Part 1 (NRI)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentGlossary of abbreviations
View the documentMap of Bangladesh showing regions and major cities
View the documentSummary
View the documentSection 1: Introduction
Open this folder and view contentsSection 2: Supply and demand
Open this folder and view contentsSection 3: The marketing of fish for domestic consumption
Open this folder and view contentsSection 4: The shrimp industry
Open this folder and view contentsSection 5: Conclusions
Open this folder and view contentsAppendices


In May 1987, a three-man team from the United Kingdom visited Bangladesh to review the post-harvest fisheries sector and to identify projects for British aid. The former activity resulted in the present report on the handling, processing and marketing of fish in Bangladesh.

According to official figures, fish production in Bangladesh was 794,000 tonnes in 1985 86, approximately the same level as two decades previously. Of this quantity approximately 34,000 tonnes were used for export, while the remaining 760,000 tonnes were destined for the home market. Due to population growth, consumption per capita has fallen over the last two decades, from a level of 12 kg per annum to 7.6 kg per annum.

The catch for 1985/86 came from inland capture fisheries (56% of the total), marine fisheries (26%) and culture (18%), with the latter two growing at the expense of inland capture fisheries. The main types of fish caught are hilsa, an andromadous fish which migrates up the Ganges Delta to spawn, carps and catfish. Exports consist mainly of frozen shrimp (marine and freshwater), while frogs' legs, frozen and cured finfish have also been of significant value.

Fish production is expected to increase up to the turn of the century mainly as a result of aquaculture, but it is doubtful whether it will be possible to maintain current levels of per capita consumption.

The physical handling of fish in Bangladesh leaves room for much improvement and the following problems exist: lack of ice, lack of roads and adequate transport, lack of insulation during transport, inadequate packaging, lack of sanitation and reliance on slow non-mechanised collector boats. With the exception of a few facilities belonging to the Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation, landing facilities and fish markets are totally inadequate in relation both to fish quality and public health. As a result of these problems and of the practice of discarding shrimp by-catch at sea, there are substantial losses, both quantitative and qualitative. These are summarized below.

Fish marketing is almost exclusively a preserve of the private sector, and this is considered efficient compared to alternative systems which might be established. Nevertheless, there is scope for more competition, particularly in the assembly phase, which links fishermen to primary wholesale markets.

The most serious marketing difficulties seem to occur in remote fishing communities in the Bay of Bengal and enclosed inland waters which lack regular supplies of ice and transport, and where fishermen are in a particularly weak position in relation to intermediaries. In such locations much fish has to be processed into lower valued cured products and the process of curing often involves considerable losses through spoilage and infestation.

Shrimp production is one of the most dynamic areas of the Bangladeshi economy, now contributing over 10% of export revenue. However, the quality of most shrimp exported suffers from poor handling between the catching areas and the processing plants, and from poor hygiene in the plants themselves. This has resulted in the 'blocklisting' of Bangladeshi exports in the United States in 1979 and bans on imports by Saudi Arabia and Italy. There is an urgent need to establish a larger and more thorough official quality control service than that currently operating, for which purpose further technical assistance by FAO is planned.

Quantification of post-harvest losses is very difficult, but on the basis of limited information currently available the authors have made the following estimates:



Internally consumed:

Quantative losses

at least 35,200 tonnes (4.6% of the catch)

discarded by-catch and dried fish loss

Qualitative losses

US$ 96 million

downgraded fish

Shrimp exports:

Quantitive losses

US$ 2 million

excessive washing

Qualitative losses

US$ 7 million +


The authors discuss possible measures to diminish these losses and generally improve the efficiency of the marketing system, as follows: assistance targetted specifically at remote fishing communities; an improved system of mandatory inspection for seafood exports; the building of a series of modern

landing and wholesaling facilities; training and extension in improved handling and processing for all those handling fish; research into various topics of concern to the post-harvest fisheries sector; various other measures to improve export performance. For Bangladesh to undertake such a programme would require considerable outside technical and financial support, especially training of a very practical kind in fish quality, handling and processing technology.

The suggested improvements would benefit the Bangladeshi economy in the following ways: increasing the availability of fish, at reduced prices and with better quality; increased revenue to fishermen and processors; increased foreign exchange earnings; environmental improvements resulting from modern landing/wholesaling facilities.