Fish are sliced up and covered in salt after their entrails are disposed of before drying them in the sun to preserve the meat Dhaka Tribune

Shutki varieties made out of fish caught in Chalan Beel region are quite popular across the country for their taste and quality, say locals

With an ever-growing demand for freshwater “shutki” or dried fish, traders of the Chalan Beel region in the northern district of Natore have now been enabled to earn a fair amount of foreign exchange by exporting the delicacy while at the same time satisfying local markets. 

According to the Natore District Fisheries Office, 319 tons of dried fish were produced in Singra upazila of the district in 2020. 

Nannu Miya, a trader from Gurudaspur upazila, said dried fish from Chalan Beel were exported to 10-12 countries, including the US, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE. “There is a possibility of producing 150-200 tons of shutki worth around Tk50 crore in the current season.”

Ningoin Shutkipolli, along the Natore-Bogra Highway in the upazila, has become a major spot for drying commercially native fishes like shoil, boal, baim, chital, tengra, taki, khalisha, shrimp and puti.

Shutki varieties made out of fish caught in the Chalan Beel region are quite popular across the country for their taste and quality, according to local residents.

Shaidul Islam, a local who is in the business of drying and trading of fish, said the prime time for drying fish was between October and February. Dried fish had been gaining popularity day by day all over the country and dried fish from Chalan Beel was getting popular in foreign countries as well, he added.

However, some traders said the dry fish business depended on luck, as prices of dry fishes did not always remain the same.

They also said that they had been suffering due to a lack of dry fish storage facilities in the region, adding that they would benefit if Chalan Beel-based dry fish sales and storage facilities were constructed.

A dried fish trader at Ningoin Shutkipolli in the upazila said dried fish prices varied between Tk300 to Tk1,300 for each kilogram — based on its quality, the variety of fish and its size.  

The price of a kg of shoil shutki now ranges from Tk1,000 to Tk 1,300, boal from Tk 800 to Tk 1,000, gunchi Tk 700 to Tk 1,000, kachki Tk 700, and puti Tk 300.

After the fish are bought from fishermen, they are sliced up and covered in salt once their entrails are disposed of, said a local resident. He added that salt was used to preserve the meat. 

Ningoin resident Abdur Razzak said, “The dried fish of Chalan Beel are tastier than dried sea fish. I often buy shutki from Singra Shutkipolli because it’s fresh, hygienic and processed right before our eyes.”

In his comments, Jahangir Alam, fisheries officer in Natore, said: “Chalan Beel has both a reputation and a demand for dried fish. So, we are considering providing training and financial assistance to the dried fish traders to increase the quality of the dried fish. Hopefully, once the process starts, the dried fish business in the region will go a long way.”

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