After showing mixed performances in the initial years, the export of vegetables from Bangladesh now appears poised to take off and, that too, in a spectacular manner. A recent FE report says the country's vegetable shipments have achieved 100 per cent growth in the July-August period of the current FY. The feat was not easy to accomplish. In the recent years, Bangladesh has been among some other Asian countries exporting vegetables to a number of European and Middle Eastern destinations. The countries also included Malaysia and Singapore. Thanks to the Covid-19-induced adversities, and the last year's flooding, the export flows began trickling down. In one phase, the exports to its traditional destinations ground to a virtual halt. In its absence from the scene, Bangladesh's three rival exporting countries --- India, Thailand and Vietnam --- reaped the maximum benefit. Moreover, it was the lower airfreight charges in the three countries which had facilitated them to have an edge over Bangladesh.
Achieving the noticeable export growth in the July-August period of the 2021-22 FY, against the country's lacklustre performance last fiscal year, is indeed heartening. The exports had to undergo a 28pc decline in the last FY with traders making shipments of vegetables worth US$ 118 million. The exporters this FY saw a 102 pc growth in shipments compared to that in the corresponding period last fiscal year. The growth has been linked to an increase in the shipment of summer vegetables to EU countries, along with the UK, and the ME.
In spite of the hopes for exceeding the export target already set, there is a damper. It comes in the form of the high airfreight charge for vegetable exports. Exporters rue the fact that the said charge is at present the highest for Bangladeshi traders than that for exporters from its competitors -- India, Thailand and Vietnam. The forbiddingly high airfreight charge evidently stands as a stumbling block to the great prospects Bangladesh has for export of vegetables. As things stand now, the vegetable exporters look forward to bringing the said charge down to the pre-pandemic level. They have firm belief that this critical step is set to increase vegetable shipments quite remarkably. Market observers also hold the view that high vegetable airfreight charges should not stand in the way of the expansion of the newly identified items' export. For Bangladesh, the fast emerging vegetable markets abroad are going to add to the country's number of non-traditional export destinations. In line with this, the government has set a target of making vegetable shipments worth $120 million in the current FY.
Bangladesh at present exports 0.07 million to 0.10 million tonnes of vegetables to 52 countries annually. Simultaneously, vegetable cultivation on large and medium scales round the year is helping the country emerge with a new face. In this age of producing varied types of vegetables round the year and serving the countries having different seasons, Bangladesh is fortunate to have a soil suitable for both leafy and fruity vegetables. As a result, their clients mainly comprise the immigrants and non-resident Asians. There are also motley overseas clients. It is good that a large section of farmers cultivate vegetables throughout the year. Few vegetables are now rigidly confined to winter and summer. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) plays an untiring role in these vegetable-growing ventures. There should be no hindrance to Bangladesh becoming an ideal vegetable-producing country internationally. But the trade-related hurdles stunting the export growth of vegetables need to be removed first.