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Bangladesh: Exporting fruits and vegetables

Exporting of fruits and vegetables from Bangladesh can prove to be very gainful activities for creating value chains and employment extensively at the grass roots level. Unlike in other-export oriented industries, the retention of value-added earnings from the export of fruits and vegetables can be one hundred percent or nearly so. This is because the import contents for large scale export of indigenously produced fruits and vegetables, unlike in the other export-oriented sectors, would be nothing or negligible.

According to an estimate, Bangladesh can earn over a billion US dollars by exporting fruits. Thailand earns presently several billion US dollars from fruit and fruit products alone. Bangladesh can nearly match Thailand's performance in this field because this country has a bounty of tropical fruits which can be extremely satisfying to foreign customers such as mangoes, pineapples, black berries, bananas, etc. Both in whole form or in sliced and juiced forms, the fruits and fruit products in cans can fetch huge amounts of foreign currencies for the country. But the high potentials in this area have been hardly tapped so far. Similar, if not greater potentials exist also for the export of vegetables from Bangladesh. Cumulatively, export of fruits and vegetables directly and in processed forms can help the country earn a substantial amount fairly soon provided operators in this sector are self-guided with a vision and are directed and motivated to these ends also by the government through supportive policies and infrastructural developments.

Leaders of the Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters Association (BFVAPEA) have submitted recently a list of demands to the government. The demands of the association are mainly in the area of air freighting. Fast and less costly air freighting of their perishable products is the key to expanding their businesses. But it is formidably constrained by lack of air freighting capacities or high charges. Some months ago the government waived the ground handling charge of any aircraft carrying fruits and vegetables cargoes. An immediate reaction of this policy decision was seen in some foreign airlines that previously refused to carry such cargoes from Bangladesh, from their agreeing to do so in the light of the new decision. But it is ironical that while foreign airlines have been activated by the government's decision, Bangladesh Biman authorities have not yet implemented it.

Thus, Biman authorities need to be obliged to implement the decision at the fastest. The national airline at present has very limited capacities for carrying fruits and vegetables and its charges are also irrationally high. A big boost to vegetable export can take place from Biman increasing its carrying capacities and reasonably scaling down is charges. There is no reason why Biman should not take such measures because freighting these perishable products round the world would help enhance state income -- a supplementary contribution that would justify Biman's continuing existence. Business operators in this sector are all for chartering private carriers. But they can only viably materialise these plans after the government decides to reduce airport and other charges significantly for such private chartered flights.

Government's supports should be quickly extended in providing training to people already involved in the sector or having the potential to do so. Vegetable and fruits exporting special zones can be encouraged with the government helping out in the matter through providing various services in these zones including cooling chain arrangements. Government may also encourage and provide concessions for the development and growth of packaging and infrastructure facilities in this sector. A big stimulus can also be provided by quickly disbursing the money given as export subsidies in this sector.


Publication date: 5/7/2007


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