Sept. 26, 2021, 10:35 p.m.
After showing mixed performance in the first few years, the export of vegetables from Bangladesh now looks set to take off and, too, dramatically. A recent report from FE indicates that the country’s vegetable shipments reached 100 percent growth during the July-August period of the current fiscal year. The feat was not easy to accomplish. In recent years, Bangladesh has been among other Asian countries exporting vegetables to a number of European and Middle Eastern destinations. The countries also included Malaysia and Singapore. Thanks to the adversities induced by Covid-19 and the floods of the last year, export flows have started to collapse. In one phase, exports to its traditional destinations practically came to a halt. In his absence, Bangladesh’s three rival exporting countries – India, Thailand and Vietnam – have reaped the maximum benefits. In addition, it was the lower air freight charges in the three countries that gave them an advantage over Bangladesh.
Achieving notable growth in exports during the July-August period of fiscal year 2021-22, compared to the country’s poor performance in the previous fiscal year, is indeed encouraging. Exports must have suffered a 28% drop in the previous fiscal year, as traders shipped US $ 118 million worth of vegetables. Exporters during the financial year recorded an increase in their shipments of 102 pc compared to that of the corresponding period of the previous financial year. The growth has been linked to an increase in summer vegetable shipments to EU countries, as well as the UK and ME.
Despite the hopes of exceeding the export target already set, there is a brake. This is the high air freight charge for vegetable exports. Exporters regret that this tax is currently the highest for Bangladeshi traders than for the exporters of its competitors – India, Thailand and Vietnam. The insanely high air freight charges are obviously a stumbling block to Bangladesh’s great prospects for exporting vegetables. As it stands, vegetable exporters are eager to bring this burden back to pre-pandemic levels. They firmly believe that this critical step is expected to dramatically increase vegetable shipments. Market watchers are also of the view that high air freight charges for vegetables should not hamper the expansion of exports of the newly identified items. For Bangladesh, emerging overseas vegetable markets will add to the number of non-traditional export destinations in the country. With this in mind, the government has set itself the goal of making vegetable shipments worth $ 120 million in the current fiscal year.
Bangladesh currently exports 0.07 million to 0.10 million tonnes of vegetables to 52 countries each year. At the same time, the large and medium-scale market gardening throughout the year brings out the country with a new face. In the age of producing various types of vegetables throughout the year and serving countries with different seasons, Bangladesh is fortunate to have a soil suitable for leafy vegetables and fruits. As a result, their clients are predominantly made up of immigrants and non-resident Asians. There are also motley foreign customers. It is good that a large part of the farmers grow vegetables throughout the year. Few vegetables are now strictly confined to winter and summer. The Agricultural Extension Department (DAE) plays an indefatigable role in these market gardening enterprises. Nothing should prevent Bangladesh from becoming an ideal vegetable producing country internationally. But the trade barriers that hold back the growth of vegetable exports must first be removed.