Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation (BSFF) demanded resumption of banking activities in the coastal areas.

In an emergency meeting on Monday it said suspension of the banking activities has seriously affected the loan disbursements in favour of the affected shrimp farmers.

“The emergency steps taken by the Government to ensure social distancing and lockdown has also affected the workforce in the hatcheries and in the grow-outs, disturbed the production in the hatcheries, problems relating to timely clearance of vitally important inputs needed for the sector at different Customs Stations, especially at land boarder at Benapole,” the BSFF said in a statement.

The meeting reviewed the challenges presently being faced by the country’s shrimp sector which makes significant contribution to the country’s GDP, employment of a sizable workforce of the country and export earnings. The meeting reviewed the crisis situation arising out of ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its possible immediate, short and long terms implications for Bangladesh shrimp sector.

During the meeting of the BSFF Executive Board, it was observed that the sector has come under serious strain for two major consecutive setbacks during the recent months. The pandemic following the COVID-19 outbreak, which has affected all sectors of the national economy, has also adversely affected the shrimp sector.

The impact of COVID-19 crisis was further compounded by the recent Amphan Cyclone which flooded a large number of shrimp ghers in the South-Western part of Bangladesh, destroyed important infrastructures and farm establishments.

Following a comprehensive review of the challenges being faced by the sector, the BSFF Executive Board appreciated the initiatives that Government has taken so far to overcome the challenges arising out of COVID-19, especially the stimulus packages announced for the different sectors of the economy. The Executive Board called upon the Government to come forward with further comprehensive assistance packages for the shrimp sector as well to enable it to overcome the present challenges.

Some of the concrete measures which the Government may take according to the BSFF Executive Board are expeditious disbursement of concessional agricultural credit for shrimp sector stakeholders, support for procurement of PLs and other necessary inputs, rehabilitation of infrastructure and production facilities damaged by the cyclone Amphan as well as administrative facilitation of clearance of imported inputs at ports of entries and their smooth movement. The Board specially mentioned the assistance to the small shrimp farmers who do not have any access to any formal institutional finance. As such, the BSFF Board urged the Government to consider appropriate assistance packages for them to help them to procure the necessary seeds and feed and survive the present critical problem.

The BSFF Executive Board invited attention of the Government that immediate assistance packages would be particularly needed and helpful now that the farmers at the grow-out level are preparing for the next production cycle for the black tiger shrimp which accounts for more than 90% of the export of the fisheries products of Bangladesh. In the absence of timely assistance, the shrimp farmers of Bangladesh will not be able to take advantage of the next production cycle and the export from the sector will suffer immeasurably.

It was also proposed that in case the inputs cannot be imported from traditional sources, the inputs from alternative sources should be expedited. The BSFF Board also called upon the Government to favourably consider budgetary measures to help the sector through concrete activities incorporated in the proposed budget proposal for the country for the FY2020-2021.

It was also stressed that both the Government and the private sector stakeholders begin coordinated actions forthwith to overcome the loss in export due to COVID-19 crisis and if needed, to explore the possibility of exporting Bangladesh shrimps to new and emerging markets abroad alongside the traditional export markets where Bangladesh shrimps are presently exported in close coordination with the Government of Bangladesh, especially the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Ministry of Commerce, Department of Fisheries and the Export Promotion Bureau.

The BSFF Board meeting, chaired by its Chairman Syed Mahmudul Huq, was participated amongst others by Mr. Salman Ispahani, Chairman, MM Ispahani Group, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Development Economist, Practitioner and Academician, Mr. Abdul Karim, former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr. Md. Ghulam Hussain, former Secretary to the Ministry of Commerce and former Chairman, National Board of Revenue, Ambassador (Retd.) Liaquat Ali Choudhury, former Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands, Ambassador (Retd.) Shafi U Ahmed, former Bangladesh High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Malaysia, Mr. Md. Nurul Amin, former Managing Director & CEO of NCC Bank Ltd. and Meghna Bank Ltd., Mr. Imtiaz Uddin Ahmad, former Sr. Sector Operational Officer, South Asia Agriculture and Rural Development (SASARD) Department, World Bank, Dhaka and Washington DC, Dr. GM Khurshid Alam, Operations Director, Policy Research Institute (PRI) and former Sr. Private Sector Development Specialist, World Bank, Ms. Fawzia Khondker, Honorary Executive Director, PRAGROSHOR, a gender and feminist training and resource center- all members of the Executive Board. Stock and Corporate