By shifting its focus on cultivation, the country fetched foreign currencies by increasing exports of agricultural products during the blockade situation of Covid-19.
The country’s agricultural products are expanding positive growth globally, underpinning the need for adoption of plan by the government to re-orient its capacity of expanding the export basket.
Countries in East Asia and the Middle East are also now turning to Bangladeshi agricultural products for food imports, sources said.
Acknowledging the issue, Commerce Secretary Dr. MD. Jafar Uddin earlier said, “Apart from Singapore, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and other Middle Eastern countries have approached us since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, showing interest in importing food agricultural products. This has created a unique opportunity to expand the country's agricultural exports.”
The Commerce Ministry has started focusing on non-conventional agricultural products and others to diversify the export market along with other sectors. Of the 21 products that achieved positive growth in July this fiscal, six were agricultural products. Agricultural products showed a positive trend by 31 percent.
Meanwhile, some companies are working on their own initiative to provide fair prices to the farmers including processing and export of agricultural products like potato, sweet pumpkin, cabbage, providing seeds, fertilizers and pesticides and creating employment opportunities for women. Farmers are becoming more enthusiastic as they are getting fair prices.
Managing Director of Masawa Agro Limited Arif Azad Prince told The Bangladesh Post, “I have started exporting cabbage from different districts of the country with business risk considering the potential and interest of foreign buyers. Since 2016, we have been exporting potatoes, sweet pumpkins, and cabbage to various countries including Malaysia, Singapore, the UAE, and abroad.”
“After COVID we started exporting cabbage to Singapore and Malaysia from last December. So far we have exported 93 containers weighing 1860 metric tons of cabbage. Another 20 containers weighing 400 metric tons of cabbage are in the process of export. It will also start exporting potatoes in late January,” Azad added.
“Last year, we exported about 12,000 metric tons of potatoes. I hope to be able to export 15,000 metric tons of potatoes this year. Potatoes, sweet pumpkins and cabbages are collected from grassroots farmers in remote areas of Bogra, Joypurhat, Nilphamari, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Thakurgaon and Panchagarh districts of North Bengal. Then we process and package our own and export them,” he further added.
President of Bangladesh Fruit Vegetable and Allied Products Exporters Association (BFVAPEA) SM Jahangir Hossain said, “If everything was normal, exports would have been much higher. Despite Covid-19 our export increased to Sweden, Belgium, Greece, and other non EU countries. We hope our export will increase 10 percent to 20 percent this season."
A former joint secretary of BFVAPEA earlier said, "If we want to increase the export market in this sector, we need international standard laboratories. Many countries do not have confidence in the quarantine certificate issued by the Department of Agricultural Extension.”
Officials from the Department of Agricultural Extension said the department's plant quarantine department only checks if there are diseases in vegetables. On the basis of this quarantine certificate is given. But the standard test certificate being sought in the international market has not yet been arranged in the country.
Additional Director of the Department of Plant Quarantine (Import Export and Laboratory) Fazlul Haque said that, "All kinds of vegetables are exported from the country. We have a demand of 40,000 to 43,000 tonnes of potatoes. The government has a plan to build an international standard laboratory.”