They are for a modern processing centre to help them export more fresh produces by meeting requirements of buyers, especially in the European markets. The Bangladesh Vegetable and Allied Fruits Exporters’ Association has sought technical and financial supports besides allocation of land from the government for the centre.
The fresh vegetable and fruit exporters have been facing stiff competition from their counterparts from Pakistan, India and Kenya in Middle-east markets including United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait. Pakistani and Indian exporters for their close proximity are able to send their goods at cheap prices through the sea-route while Bangladesh exporters have to rely on expensive air shipment.
Even then the export of fresh vegetables and fruits from the country has got good market as Bangladeshi expatriates are the main buyers who prefer home-grown produces.
According to local exporters, Bangladeshis in many European cities look for fresh Bangladeshi vegetables and fruits. Earlier Britain was the major destination for local fresh vegetables and fruits. For the past few years Bangladesh has been exporting such consignments also to Italy and France.
Fruits and vegetable exporters say that they are constrained from exporting more mainly by lack of facilities for air freighting . Bangladesh Biman has very limited capacities for this and its charges are also irrationally high. A big boost to export of vegetables and fruits can take place from Biman increasing its carrying capacities and reasonably scaling down is charges. There is no reason why Biman should not take such measures because carrying of Bangladeshi agro-products round the world can turn out to be a lucrative source of business for the airline.
Side by side, setting up of more cold storages throughout the country needs to be encouraged through tax rebates or exemption for their entrepreneurs as well as loans extended to them at concession rates. The use of air conditioned vans in this sector also need to be encouraged with institutional credit extended for the purpose on attractive terms.
Government can make a big contribution by improving road networks to and from areas where fruits and vegetables are grown extensively. The exporters need to be trained in cutting, processing, packaging, grading and testing in conformity with international standards. Perhaps, the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) can take an initiative in this matter.
The growing of vegetables and fruits organically must be encouraged with no loss of time. The European Union (EU) recently warned Bangladesh and some other countries that fruits and vegetables export within its territories would not be allowed if these are found to be grown with chemical fertilisers and chemical pesticides. Given the fact that the EU countries are seen as likely major importer of Bangladeshi vegetables and fruits and good payers of prices for the same, there is no time to lose to promote organic farming in the country. There is a likelihood that other importers apart from the EU would insist on organically produced vegetables and fruits. Therefore, for the longer term security of this sector, the dissemination of information, technologies and know-how for growing , organically, should be attempted at the fastest.
Vegetable and fruit growers also need to be similarly trained to grow the same under greenhouse conditions which is done in many countries of the world. The method is safe and ensures higher production round the year. Besides, farmers should be motivated also to produce high value vegetables for exports such as broccoli, gherkin, French beans, etc.
The Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) should host more single country fairs abroad to introduce and popularise our fruits and vegetables. The commercial wings of the Bangladesh missions abroad must also take up more energetic plans to make these agro-products familiar and popular among the foreign buyers.
Author / Source: Tanveer Siddiqui
The writer is an exporter of perishable goods
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