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West Bengal: Veg exporters suffer as testing lab lies unused for 3 years

The testing lab of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) set up in 2019 has not been operational since the beginning and vegetable and fruit exports are suffering because of lengthy processes at private labs and the questionable results these labs often provide. In spite of that, another project has been approved recently to procure new lab equipment and train new personnel.

This phytosanitary lab strengthening project was implemented at a cost of Tk189 crore during 2012-2019. The tests of the health of plants and vegetables are essential especially with respect to the requirements of international trade. 

Following repeated detections of pests and diseases in fresh fruits and vegetables exported to the European Union, the government set up the Central Packing House to sort, grade, test and package fresh items before transporting those straight to the airport through a cold chain reports

The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) spent crores in equipment and training, but could not put its quality testing laboratory in use even three years after project completion, leaving fresh fruit and vegetable exporters out of the intended benefits--faster, cheaper, reliable test results.

Still unpacked, expensive lab equipment is left to decay out in the open as none of the trained personnel are posted to operate those at the Central Packing House at Shyampur in the capital.

Exporters are forced to get their merchandise tested and certified at private labs – which costs them more money and time.

Now, another project has been approved to purchase more equipment and train more officials for the lab.

The lab at the packing house was a component of the Tk189 crore Strengthening Phytosanitary Capacity in Bangladesh Project implemented by the DAE between 2012 and 2019.

According to the DAE's Plant Quarantine Wing, 70 pieces of equipment of 45 types were purchased for Tk60 crore and delivered to the laboratory site at Shyampur three years ago.

Some 1,250 people were trained in the country and 90 got trained abroad for the project. Some officials even travelled to more than one country for training.

But currently, there is no personnel to run the lab. Several trained officers of the packing house are now posted elsewhere. As a result, the equipment is getting damaged from disuse.

Md Lutfar Rahman Sikder, deputy director of Central Packing House, told The Business Standard, "Sixteen officers are now working here. A few of them took training abroad under the project but they were not trained to operate the equipment."

Other officers who were trained under the project are not working at the packing house anymore due to promotion and transfer.


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