Crab farmers and traders in Barguna are on the brink of destitution as exports are indefinitely postponed after the COVID-19 outbreak. The losses started well before the pandemic reached Bangladesh, because China, the main market for the crabs, imposed an import ban on January 25.
Crab farmers are likely to lose Tk 20 crore in Patharghata of Barguna. Most of the farmers in the area are running this business with loans. So, now hundreds of farmers are worried about the interest of banks and NGOs rather than the amount of profit. Farmers say they are facing losses as there is no demand for crab in foreign markets.
It is learned that last year, female crabs were sold at Tk 2,950 per kg and male crabs at Tk 1,600 per kg. Crabs are currently being sold in the local market at a price of 300-400 taka, whereas, they were sold at taka 3 to 3 thousand taka per kg, during January this year.
Samir Chandra Bepari, the largest crab warehouse keeper in Patharghata, said, “I bought the crabs from farmers at Tk 2,500 per kg last year. Wholesalers are now selling those crabs at 300 to 400 taka per kg. At present, farmers are suffering from losses as there is no export to China.”
A local crab warehouseman said, "Wholesalers in Dhaka have told us that crabs do not go to China, so they are not buying them. That is why we are not buying crabs from farmers.”
Golam Morshed Rahat, Assistant Value Chain Facilitator of Peach Project, said, “In collaboration with PKSF, through local NGOs, we motivate more than five hundred entrepreneurs, small and large, in Patharghata Upazila to cultivate crabs. They have benefited a lot in the last few years. However, as they could not sell crabs this year, they will have to incur a loss of more than Tk 20 crore.”
Uttam Majumder, president of Patharghata Upazila Kakra Aratdar Samiti and a crab farmer, is cultivating crabs at Tk 2,500 per kg in a fence built on one acre of land. He has been cultivating crabs there for three months with food worth of Tk 4 lakh per month.
He said, “After collecting crabs worth Tk 20 lakh from the Sundarbans area, the total cost of cultivating them for three months costs Tk 32 lakh. But now I have to sell them at only Tk 300 due to lack of demand. Currently, the crabs are on the verge of laying eggs, so if they are not sold, they will die," he said.
Putul Rani, a woman entrepreneur from the same area, has lost her way by cultivating 750 kg of crabs on 33 percent of her land. Hundreds of crab entrepreneurs, including Manoj Bepari, Tapu, Kishore, Mahindra, Jotsna Rani and Shilpi Rani of the upazila, are spending their days in despair.
Barguna Deputy Commissioner Mostain Billah said, “The current corona pandemic led to decrease in demand for our crabs in international market. However, a solution will come very soon.”