Vegetable exports dropped 16.81 percent year-on-year to $76.90 million in the first 11 months of fiscal 2016-17 due to a ban on direct cargo flights from Dhaka to Europe.
Besides, the partial ‘self-ban’ last month by the Plant Protection Wing of the Department of Agricultural Extension on export of vegetables to avoid return of consignments also had an impact on shipments.
The EU, especially the UK and Italy, is a major destination for Bangladeshi fruits and vegetables because of a sizeable population of non-resident Bangladeshis.
“Shipments to Europe saw a decline from last month because of the Plant Protection Wing’s partial ban,” said Foyez Ahmed, proprietor of Tahura International, an exporter, agent and freight forwarder.
Ahmed said he used to export seven tonnes of vegetables a day, but the quantity came crashing down to three tonnes because of the ban.
“Now, the Middle East has turned into our main export destination,” Ahmed said.
Bangladesh exports carrot, tomato, potato, eggplant, spinach, cauliflower, papaya, pumpkin, bottle gourd, cabbage, coriander leaf, ladies finger, cucumber, bitter gourd, bean, jute leaf, drumstick, radish, dry fish, fish and meat.
The Plant Protection Wing though is allowing shipments of vegetables, fruits and other agricultural produce that comply with the strict rules of the EU, said Md Anwar Hossain Khan, its deputy director of export.
Any kind of failure in following the EU compliances means a return of consignments.
If the Plant Protection Wing does not follow the controlled system in allowing exports, the EU might impose a complete ban on Bangladeshi fruits and vegetables, he said.
“That’s why the wing imposed a self partial ban as a precautionary measure to avoid any extreme action from the EU.”
Many exporters cannot comply with the rules for pest, food safety and packaging of fruits and vegetables to the EU, he said.
“Sometimes, it is difficult to follow high levels of compliance when the exporters collect the vegetables from the local open markets and send those straight to the EU.”
However, there is good news this year for mango exporters from the Satkhira and Rajshahi districts thanks to contract farming of the tropical fruits.
Under contract farming, mangoes are grown following the rules and regulations of the EU, he said.
Moreover, the exporters have been availing the facility of central packaging, set up on three bighas of land in Shyampur by the DAE, Khan said.
The central packaging house, which is now partially open and will go into full operations soon, has washing, sorting, grading, packaging and cooling facilities for fruit and vegetable exporters to ensure hygienic processing before shipment.
Previously, 60 percent of the fruit and vegetable consignments were sent to the EU, but now the share has come down to less than 40 percent, said Mohammad Mansur, general secretary of Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetables & Allied Products Exporters’ Association.
Now, 60 percent of the shipments go to the Middle East, Mansur said.
Besides, airlines have increased their fare for carrying fruits and vegetables to any European country because of the need for re-screening the cargo in a third country.
Airlines increased their fare by Tk 10 per kg to Tk 165 for carrying goods from Dhaka to Europe, he said.
Source: The Daily Star