Cabbage exports from Bangladesh have surged nearly 6,000 per cent by volume this year over that of the past year.
The country has shipped a record 6,500 tonnes in one and a half months until February 15, fetching an estimated $1.5-million in export receipts.
It exported just 107 tonnes in 2020, according to the plant quarantine wing of the agriculture department.
Competitors like China, Pakistan and India have produced less cabbage than expected this year mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic, fuelling a rise in demand for the item.
Bangladesh mainly exported the item to Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia.
Malaysia is the biggest importer of Bangladeshi cabbage followed by Singapore.
The Southeast Asian nation imported close to 5,000 tonnes, Singapore over 1,000 tonnes and Taiwan nearly 500 tonnes.
"We've so far exported 6,500 tonnes by sea and there are more in the pipeline," said Md Shamsul Alam, additional director (plant quarantine) at the Department of Agriculture Extension.
The large shipment was made at a time when the country's overall export performance was in the negative territory, he added.
Agro-export is one of the sub-sectors where the value of shipment remained at least 2.2 per cent higher or $523 million than that of the export target set for the first six months of this fiscal.
Mr Alam said this cabbage is usually consumed by cattle.
Exporters said they were happy over increased shipment, thus widening their shares in the overall export.
They had either contract farming or NGO support to produce cabbage as per the buyer's specification.
Contract faming is dominant in Meherpur, Kushtia, Jashore and Bogura districts.
Md Ziaul Hoque, an exporter and proprietor of 'Things to Supply', said they have received good value for cabbage this year.
"I've never exported such a large volume in the past. It is because of less production in our main rival China," he told the FE.
On the other hand, Agrofresh Exports proprietor Afroza Khatoon, who earlier shipped potato abroad, said, "I've exported nearly 1,200 tonnes of cabbage this year."
There are many orders for the same but she cannot supply due to the limited farming, she added.
The Agrofresh had contract farming in Meherpur, a northwestern district under Khulna division, on 75 acres of land. It has over 75 contract farmers there.
Md Rubel, Agrofresh manager in Meherpur, said: "Farmers got good price as they had a contract for the value with them earlier."
Exporters, however, cited the problems they face, including lack of reefer containers and non-issuance of no-objection certificate (NOC) by banks.
"This is a highly perishable item and shipping lines prefer NOCs from banks. But banks do not cooperate with us," Ms Afroza alleged.
She said the central bank is yet to issue a clear statement on this issue.
On the other hand, exporter Ziaul Hoque said Bangladesh could export at least 10,000 tonnes of cabbage a year on the availability of logistic support.
Exporters usually send cabbage to Chattogram from Jashore or Kushtia by road and goods sustain injuries under such transportation.
"We need reefer container service that will ensure high-quality cabbage and other perishable vegetable exports." Mr Hoque said.
The exporter has already applied to the National Board of Revenue to this end, but he is yet to get any remedy.
In the meantime, Mohammad Moziball Hoque, senior manager at the Hague-based Solidaridad, said they have long been encouraging farmers for 'good agricultural practice' and this is the result.
Cabbage is mostly produced by rational uses of fertiliser and insecticide. Its demand has thus been growing in different parts of the world, he stated.
Thousands of cabbage farmers are getting good prices for their produce, thanks to a project called 'Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Linkages (SaFaL)', the NGO said.
The Dutch NGO has been facilitating cabbage exports to Malaysia and Singapore for the past three years, said Md Raihanul Islam Chowdhury, programme officer for supply chain of Solidaridad Network Asia.
Farmers could sell cabbage at the project's collection centres at Tk 2.0 higher than the current market price, which used to drop every harvest time, he cited.