Hiren Pandit: Agricultural products are giving new hope to the export trade of Bangladesh. This sector has crossed the milestone of one billion- or one-billion-dollar export income in the last financial year amid the Corona pandemic. The positive trend continues in the current financial year as well. Export earnings of the sector have been increasing for the last four years. However, due to Corona, the exports of this sector decreased by 5 percent in the financial year 2020. In the last financial year 2020-21, the export earnings of the sector increased by 19 percent and crossed the $1 billion mark for the first time.
It is important in ensuring the position of Bangladeshi products in international trade. The legal and infrastructural reform of the trading system to facilitate the marketing of agricultural products and agricultural processing products, the development of the testing system to ensure product quality, and structural changes in risk-based product clearance. According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, 10 years ago in the fiscal year 2010-11, USD 400 million of foreign currency came to the country from the export of agricultural products. In the last fiscal year 2020-21, it increased more than two and a half times to reach 102 million 81 million dollars. Educated youths tend to produce agricultural products for export. file image. After promising foreign exchange from this sector in the last financial year, the target of export income in the financial year 2021-22, which started from July 1, has been set at 110 crore 92 million dollars. Bangladesh used to earn a good amount by exporting tea. But now it has come down. In the last financial year, only 35 lakh 60 thousand dollars’ worth of tea was exported. But now Bangladesh is earning a lot from the export of vegetables. The export of this sector is increasing every year. In the last financial year, foreign exchange worth 118.7 million 30 thousand dollars came from the export of vegetables. This time the target is 12 million dollars. 1 crore 37 lakh 40 thousand dollars came in the middle of last year.
According to the data of the Bangladesh Agro Processors Association (BAPA), an organization of agricultural product processing industry owners, more than five hundred companies are involved in the production of agricultural processed food products. Among them, there are 20 large and medium enterprises. All of them are exporting more or less. Currently, the government is providing 20 per cent cash assistance to exports of agricultural and processed food products. In the fiscal year 2020-21, their export amount was about 3 thousand crore taka (34 million 10 million dollars), which is 33.16 per cent of the total export of this sector.
Different industrial groups, which started exporting food products to France in 1997, is currently exporting products to 145 countries including Europe-America, and neighboring countries India. The potential of agricultural processed food is huge. Just as people are accepting ready-made clothes, people are also buying and eating ready-made food. Many countries in the world do not produce large amounts of processed food. They are mainly import dependent. All in all, the demand for processed food will increase in the coming days. In order to increase the export of the product, the agriculture of our country should be more productive.
According to EPB, significant agricultural exports are vegetables, tea, flowers, fruits, various spices, tobacco, dry food, etc. However, Bangladesh has made significant progress in the export of dry food. Of the $100 million in agricultural products exported from Bangladesh in the last financial year, the share of processed food products is high. There are more than five hundred companies involved in the production of agro-processed food products. Among them, there are 20 large and medium enterprises and more than 100 companies are exporting. Tax rebates and 20 per cent cash assistance are being given for the export of agricultural products and export of food processing products. As a result, the export earnings in this sector have increased for the last four years. The entrepreneurs of this sector have started exporting new products keeping in view the demand of the global market, which is showing a positive effect. Due to the corona pandemic, the demand for agricultural and processed food has increased in the global market. The government wants the entrepreneurs of the country to make use of this opportunity and in that case, the necessary assistance will be provided. For example, domestic companies have earned 88.6 million dollars in a few months of the year by exporting dry food such as biscuits and bread. Currently, the processed food of Bangladesh is being exported to 145 countries of the world.
Many people around the world have changed their eating habits due to the corona pandemic. To reduce costs they are turning to affordable food, especially dry food. That is why they have achieved the milestone of 1 billion dollars in agricultural products export in the last financial year. Bangladesh is making rapid progress due to the modernization of technology and ensuring the production of quality products. Apart from this, the government’s policy support like tax concessions and cash assistance is playing a special role in the export of agricultural products. Many countries in the world do not produce large amounts of processed food. They are mainly import dependent. Now the ‘fit for human consumption’ certificate has become a major obstacle in the export of agricultural products.
Suppose it is possible to establish an international quality lab in the country and give such a certificate. In that case, exports can increase 10 times and earn 13 billion dollars in foreign exchange every year. But there is no institution in Bangladesh to give such a certificate. Agricultural products have immense potential in diversifying import-export products. There is also a huge demand for Bangladeshi agricultural products abroad. But the ‘fit for human consumption’ certificate is acting as a major barrier to export. Suppose it is possible to establish an international quality lab in the country and give such a certificate. In that case, exports can increase 10 times and earn 13 billion dollars in foreign exchange every year. But there is no institution in Bangladesh to give such a certificate. There is no accredited lab in the country to issue quality assurance certificates. Exports without proper quality control have banned imports of freshwater fish.
In the case of the export of agricultural products to Bangladesh, the certificate is given by the Directorate of Agricultural Extension, the Directorate of Fisheries for the export of fish, and the Directorate of Livestock for the export of meat and animal products. Islamic Foundation issues a Halal certificate for the export of products to the Middle East and BSTI certifies 181 products according to Bangladesh standards at the production level. None of these institutions have the capacity to issue ‘fit for human consumption certificates as per the parameters set by the buyer states. In this situation, Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission has recommended the establishment of a single ‘Health Certification Authority’ with representatives of various organizations that set standards, including the establishment of accredited labs of international standards to prevent the wastage of agricultural products in the country and to ensure fair prices. Suppose it is possible to give such a certificate. In that case, it is possible to increase the export of agricultural and food products by 10 times and earn 13 billion dollars in foreign exchange every year.
Initiatives should be taken to export various types of products without restricting the export trade to certain products. It is necessary to know what type of product is in demand in any country of the world. For this, Bangladesh embassies and missions abroad have to play an active role.
The writer is a columnist and researcher. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org