The import of fruits, particularly vitamin-C enriched ones such as orange, kinnow and apple recommended by health experts to ward off the coronavirus, has increased amid the pandemic.
Although the harvest season is underway for local fruits such as mango, jackfruit and lychee, widely available in the markets, there is also growing demand for kinnow, apple, orange and grapes.
Sales of fruits in retail markets across the country have shot up too, reports bdnews24.com.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, citrus fruits are in great demand not only in Bangladesh but also around the world as people tend to consume more fruits in a bid to boost their immunity, importers noted.
According to the customs department, a total of 213,106 tonnes of kinnows, apples, oranges, grapes and pears worth Tk 8.65 billion were imported between January and June. The quantity of imported fruits is 19.18 per cent higher than in the same period last year, while the value of imported fruits rose by 23.37 per cent.
In the first six months of 2019, 78,803 tonnes of fruits worth Tk 7.01 billion were shipped in through the Chattogram port.
Besides complying with health protocols, experts have advised people to consume vitamin C-rich fruits to keep the Covid-19 pathogen at bay, pushing up the sale of such fruits in the process.
The demand for oranges, apples and kinnows has slightly dropped since June, as local fruits, such as mango and jackfruit, are in season, according to Towhidul Islam, general secretary of Bangladesh Fresh Fruit Importers Association. But the sales of oranges, apples and kinnow were high until June.
“Demand for fruits like oranges and kinnows has increased around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic. Imports increased in Bangladesh too,” said Towhidul, a fruit trader in Chattogram’s wholesale fruit market.
The fruits imported in the past six months through Chattogram port were, however, ordered under LCs opened at different times earlier.
People are consuming fruits like kinnow, apple, grapes, orange and pears more than before, he said. Almost all of these fruits are imported as Bangladesh does not produce much of these and the prices are, therefore, higher.
Bangladesh generally imports kinnows from South Africa, Egypt and Australia, while apples are brought in from New Zealand, Brazil, Chille, China and India. Orange is mostly imported from India and grapes from China and India, the traders said.
Aside from the Chattogram port, fruits from overseas also enter Bangladesh through different land ports.
According to the Chattogram customs, the country imported 129,690 tonnes of apples, 3,666 tonnes of grapes, 5, 553 tonnes of pears and 7,522 tonnes of oranges in the first six months of 2020.
Also, 66,673 tonnes of kinnows have been imported until July while compared to 72,214 tonnes throughout 2019.
During a visit to retail fruit shops in the port city's Teri Bazar on Thursday, bdnews24.com found kinnows were selling for Tk 180 to Tk 200 a kg based on its quality, while grapes varied from Tk 250 to Tk 280 per kg. Apples were being sold for Tk 130 to Tk 150, pears for Tk 160 and oranges for Tk 200 per kg.
Before the outbreak, the price of kinnows ranged from Tk 130 to Tk 150, grapes from Tk 220 to Tk 230, oranges from Tk 150 to Tk 180, while apples were priced between Tk 120 and Tk 130 per kg.
Sirajul Islam, central general secretary of Bangladesh Fresh Fruit Importers Association, attributed a combination of the coronavirus epidemic and the month of Ramadan to the rise in demand for fruits.
"Overall, the fruit market has experienced a bigger demand this year.”
Bangladesh meets only 40 per cent of its fruit demand from the local sources with imports covering the shortfall, he said.