According to Md Serajul Islam, general secretary of Bangladesh Fresh Fruits Importers Association, Bangladesh’ Domestic production of fruit is too insignificant to meet the demand. “And people are consuming more fruits now than in the past,” he said, adding that local production of fruit can meet 30 percent of the annual demand.
Besides, only a certain selection of fruits - mango, jackfruit, banana, green coconut, guava, pineapple, watermelon and papaya - are produced in Bangladesh. And given the growing exposure to the Western world and rising purchasing power, people now demand a wider selection of fruits, according to industry insiders.
Between 2014-15 and 2018-19, fruit imports have soared 72 percent to 599,000 tonnes, according to data compiled by the Plant Quarantine Wing (PQW) of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), and Bangladesh Bank.
The demand for both imported and locally grown fruits is increasing for changing food habits, increasing population and income, said Md Azhar Ali, director of PQW, which is responsible for regulating the import of plants or plant products to prevent the entry of pests into the country.
“Previously, people were mainly buying fruits when visiting patients. Now, it is quite common to see a bowl of fruit in most dining tables. Health consciousness is rising along with rising income,” Islam said, adding that the demand for fruits is increasing 5 percent annually.
Orange, tangerine, apple and grape represented 85 percent of the fruit imports. Citrus fruits like tangerine and orange are grown in the Sylhet region and some parts of the hill tracts in the southeast of Bangladesh, according to the DAE officials. Grapes are also grown.