The export of fresh fruits and vegetables to European Union countries is showing a much lower growth compared to the one achieved elsewhere in the world over the last few fiscal years.
The wheel of export of fresh fruits and vegetables has slowed down in the EU market mostly as the country’s quarantine system fails to meet the standards set forth by the authorities at the export end, said officials at Bangladesh Hortex Foundation.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), 31.24 percent of the country’s total export earnings from fresh fruits and vegetables came from the EU countries in the fiscal 2012-2013, whereas the EU market contributed to more than 50 percent of the export earnings in fiscal 2007-2008.
In 2007-2008, 56 percent of the country’s total earning from fresh vegetables export came from the EU market, whereas the figure has reduced to 31.09 percent in the fiscal 2012-13.
Similarly, the share of the earning from fresh fruits export to the EU market has come down to 5.5 percent of the total export of fresh fruits in fiscal 2011-12 compared to the 45 percent share back in fiscal 2007-2008.
The falling trend in the value of export of fruits and vegetables also prevailed over the first six months of the current fiscal — from July to December last year. Over the first six months of the current fiscal, the country earned about US$ 7.57 crore from the export of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The share of the export value of fruits and vegetables to the United Kingdom was 19.68 percent of the total value of the export across the world in the first six months of the current fiscal, compared to the 24.63 percent in the previous fiscal.
A Hortex official, preferring anonymity, said it is likely that the country’s export of fruits and vegetables to the EU will not grow as much as it has been observed a few years back as EU countries want the exporting- countries to have stronger quarantine and traceability system to ensure the availability of quality and safe food.
To regain the EU market’s confidence, Bangladesh needs to strengthen the quarantine system as recommended by the Food and Veterinary Office of the European Commission, he said.
Besides, he added, for a longer term, the country needs to adopt and implement a Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) protocol of its own that will bring the marketing of agro-produces under international standardisation and accreditation.
The downtrend in the export growth of fruits and vegetables to the European market is not yet upsetting, but it may take a turn for the worse for Bangladesh in the coming days, he said.
European consumers have become much cautious about the use of harmful pesticides in agricultural production as well as about the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMO) that can pose serious health hazards, he said.
Given the scenario of the increasing pesticides use in agriculture across the world, it will be difficult to convince the European consumers about the safety of the agro-produces of a certain country unless it is equipped with proper quarantine and accreditation to assure which produces are safe to consume, said the official.
He also cautioned that the government’s move to release GMO crops like rice, brinjal and potato will put the export of agro-produces at risk amid likely embargo by the importing countries, particularly in the EU and Middle East regions.
In November last year, the National Bio-Safety Committee approved trans-genetic or GMO varieties of rice and potato. Earlier, the government approved four varieties of Bt Brinjal, which is also a controversial GMO already banned in India and the Philippines.
Bangladesh’s export earning from fresh fruits and vegetables stood at US$ 18.2 crore in the last fiscal.