EU-bound agro products:

Exporters seek corridor, cool-chain banks at HSIA

Yasir Wardad | Published: January 13, 2019 10:08:06 | Updated: January 14, 2019 10:21:14

Photo courtesy: Zaed Zaman via Flickr

The absence of a separate corridor at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) hurts exporters in maintaining quality of agro products bound for the European Union.

Insiders said consignments are often cancelled by importers of the highly-regulated EU market.

They also sought cool-chain banks at the HSIA and Chittagong port to maintain quality of the products.

Md Nazmul Islam, proprietor of Islam Enterprise, said his two vegetable consignments were cancelled last October as he could not send the items in time.

"Two containers of bitter gourds, clocasia and lemon, scheduled for October 12, lay in the open space of the airport for two days in high temperatures," he said.

"The quality of the produce might have been deteriorated," Mr Islam observed.

He said the airport has only one passageway for exporting agro produce abroad and it has no "cool chain" to maintain temperature.

More than 1,200 exporters have to depend on the lone corridor for exporting over 250 products, he added.

The authorities cannot maintain schedule of all exporters, the aggrieved Islam stated. "I incurred a loss of $6,500 for cancellation of my consignments."

Shafiqul Islam Sana and his allied traders were ready to export 200 tonnes of mangoes from Rajshahi to the UK, the Netherlands and Germany last year, but failed.

He said, "The EU market is highly regulated and we have to meet more compliances there than any other market."

"For a four-day delay at the airport," he said, "mangoes started getting some black spots on them."

"We were able to export only 26 tonnes," Mr Sana said, adding that they incurred a loss of Tk 10 million.

Dr Babul Chandra Sarker, principal scientific officer (horticulture) at Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, said fruits like mango should be preserved at below 15 degrees Celsius of temperature.

"We grow mango in summer when temperature remains between 25°C and 35°C. So, the mangoes should be sent as soon as we can," he said.

Mr Sarker said vegetables should be maintained at a temperature between 0°C to 7°C.

If it is somehow delayed even for a day, its quality could be hindered, he maintained.

Manjurul Islam, adviser to the Bangladesh Fruits Vegetable and Allied Products Exporters Association, said Bangladesh exports agro products worth $600 million. "The EU accounts for 60 per cent."

Shahjalal airport needs a technical corridor through which only EU products should be exported, he added.

The business leader also pointed out that there are no cool-chain banks at the airport and Chattogram port.

Apart from setting up cool-chains at major air and seaports, the government should also provide such facility at vegetable- and fruit-growing hubs, he said.

Md Hafizur Rahman, plant quarantine wing in-charge at the airport, said they face trouble for having only one channel for farm fresh produce.

A total of 0.8 million tonnes of products like vegetable, fruit, flower, tobacco and tea are being exported abroad through Shahjalal airport and Chittagong port annually, he added.

Mr Rahman said it is impossible to maintain schedule for shipments at the airport.

"Even many products are mistakenly sent to the markets for which they are not made for," he maintained.

"We need a technical corridor for the EU-bound consignments to resolve this problem," he said.

Mr Rahman said export could be risen by 25-30 per cent to the EU market if a separate passageway is opened.

"Even 'interception' rate could be minimised significantly in that way," he added.


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