Agricultural-product export shines bright in Bangladesh's export basket with its proceeds crossing billion-dollar mark, insiders say, raising hopes for the country's overall external trade to see a boost.
In the last fiscal year (FY) 2021-22, the agricultural goods and relevant processed foods fetched US$1.16 billion worth of foreign exchange, 13.04-percent higher year on year, Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data show.
The country's overall merchandise exports were worth US$52.08 billion in the past fiscal year, recording a 34.38-percent growth year on year.
In the previous FY2021, the Bangladesh-made agro-products had touched billion-dollar export- earning mark for the first time in the country's 50-year history. In the fiscal, the agro-exporters made shipment of agro-and relevant products worth $1.02 billion, EPD data showed.
Analysts say the entry of agricultural products into the billion-dollar-earner club has lit up a new hope for the country's much-needed export-basket diversification, away from overdependence on readymade garments.
The apparel sector has been single-largest export earner for Bangladesh for more than three decades, contributing around 80 per cent to the aggregate export earnings.
It's good news for the country that its businessmen are trying to diversify their exportable products in overseas markets, cutting dependence on the single-largest export item-RMG-the analysts say.
They say light engineering, jute and jute goods, handicrafts, leather and leather products, some specialized textiles, ceramic products and glass and glassware are also doing well in export for last couple of years.
According to the EPB, some ago-products like edible vegetables and certain root and tubers ($99.91 million), coffee, tea, meat and spices ($49.54 million), ginger, saffron, turmeric (curcuma)...curry and other spices ($39.66 million), sugar confectionery ($26.93 million), malt extract, food preparations of flour ($67.23 million), and fruit juices and vegetable juices ($58.20 million) performed well on the export market last year.
Besides, tobacco and tobacco products with $107.22 million in export earnings in the last fiscal are also showing upturn.
Khurshid Ahmad Farhad, General Manager of Bombay Sweets & Company Ltd, says agro-product exports will be growing in the future days as Bangladesh's many companies are now trying to expand their market overseas, with agro-processing industries flourishing and holding high prospects.
"Our company is also expanding its capacity and diversifying the products eying foreign alongside its local markets. We are hopeful of getting a big boost in the export volume within next couple of years," he adds.
The largest ago-processing-product exporter -PRAN-RFL Group-has already announced that it would double its export earnings to $1.0 billion by 2025.
It also plans to reach $2.0-billion-export-earning benchmark by 2030 - based on its diversified range of products and markets.
The conglomerate's export that started in 1997 by sending pineapples to France stood at $532 million in last FY2021-22, the company claims.
Research Director for the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr KG Moazzem told the FE that it's good news that Bangladesh has found the RMG+1 billion-dollar-export-earning products in its foreign-trade basket.
"We were not getting billion-dollar export products for long years. Now the agro-products had touched the point and it's maintaining a steady growth. It's really a stunning news for Bangladesh," he adds.
Dr Moazzem cites another piece of good news that some Bangladeshi-made products are getting promotion as good brand on the overseas market. "It will facilitate the country to export in the future days, too."
The CPD researcher notes that although Pran Group is the dominant exporter but some other companies are added to the list which expanded the export volume of the country.
The local companies should now enhance their capacities to expand their export market in the US and EU nations through ensuring their standard and certification.
Higher volume of the Bangladeshi agro-products goes to the middle-eastern markets alongside some Asian, African and South-Asian countries.