Bangladesh’s economy gets new momentum through export of agricultural products
Jubeda Chowdhury is a columnist, researcher
According to Bangladesh Export Development Bureau, 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. These dry foods include various products like biscuits, chanachurs, cakes, potato crackers and nuts. Of the $100 million 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 rebate and 20 percent cash assistance is being given for 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. He feels that 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. Major exports of agro-processed foods are dry foods like bread, biscuits and chanachur, edible oils and similar products, fruit juices, various spices, beverages and various sugar confectionery like jams and jellies. For example, domestic companies have earned 88.6 million dollars in 5 months of the current financial year by exporting dry food such as biscuits and bread. The main export destinations of Bangladesh’s agricultural products are the European Union, the Middle East and the Gulf region. However, Bangladeshis and other South Asian expatriates living in these countries are the main consumers. Currently, processed food of Bangladesh is being exported to 145 countries of the world.
The Pran Group accounts for the bulk of the exports of agricultural products. Their exports in the outgoing financial year were 340 million dollars. The group, which started exporting food products to France in 1997, has now reached 145 countries. The company exports products such as fruit drinks, beverages, biscuits, sauces, noodles, jelly, spices, fragrant rice, potato crackers, chanachur, jhal-muri etc. 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. All in all, the demand for processed food will increase in the coming days. In order to increase the export of agricultural products, our country’s agriculture should be more productive. We still have tariff and non-tariff barriers with many countries in the world in terms of exporting products of this sector. The government needs to take initiatives to eliminate these complications through bilateral discussions. Now the ‘fit for human consumption’ certificate has become a major obstacle in the export of agricultural products. If it is possible to establish an international quality lab in the country and give such a certificate, 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 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. If it is possible to establish an international quality lab in the country and give such a certificate, 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 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, including European Union, potatoes, Russia, potatoes, crabs and cuttlefish, and pig bones and chicken droppings in food.
In the case of 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, the Directorate of Livestock for the export of meat and animal products. Islamic Foundation issues Halal certificate for export of products to Middle East and BSTI certifies 181 products according to Bangladesh standards at 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 wastage of agricultural products in the country and to ensure fair prices. If it is possible to give such a certificate, 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. You have to contact the importing company of different countries. For this our exporters need their own initiative. We have to strengthen efforts to find markets in more new countries outside of the countries with which we currently have export trade. To develop export trade, we need to improve the quality of our products. Due to the promotion of international standards, the demand for various types of Bangladeshi products has been created in different countries. Some companies of Bangladesh have achieved unprecedented success especially in the field of export of food and agro-industrial products. A few brands of Bangladesh’s products have gained international fame, creating bright prospects for its market expansion. Diversification of export products and creation of new markets should be continued by exploiting that potential. Timely, effective, practical planning is absolutely necessary for this. Harassment bureaucratic red tape and complexity by government departments often hampers export-oriented industrial sectors. Coordinated initiatives should be taken to eliminate such harassment, lengthy procedures, and administrative complications. To remove the existing obstacles in the export of agricultural products, all concerned should take initiative to implement the integrated plan. There is no doubt that our economy will reach different heights through this. It can give new momentum to the economy.