Bangladesh is one of the bottom-ranked countries in Asia in terms of processing agricultural produces that makes a strong bite on the country’s export earnings from farm sector, according to a latest study.
It also said post-harvest loss here is 43 per cent, which is also the highest among the competitive countries. It is raising production cost of the farmers as well as cost of processed foods, and making an adverse impact on the country’s agri-economy.
Department of Food Technology and Rural Industries under Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) conducted the study titled “Efficient and nutrition sensitive post-harvest transformation and value addition to agro processed products in Bangladesh”.
It revealed that the highest 1.0 per cent fruits and vegetables are processed into various products by more than 800 processors in Bangladesh. In the competitor countries like Vietnam it is about 5.0 per cent, India 2.0 per cent, Sri Lanka 4.5 per cent, and in the Philippines 31 per cent.
Malaysia is the top ranked country with 83 per cent, while Thailand processes 73 per cent of its agro produces, and China 38 per cent, said the research findings.
The findings of the study were disclosed at a press conference, organised recently by Bangladesh Agro Processors’ Association, on nutrition responsive post-harvest technology and value addition in agro produces.
Prof Dr M Burhan Uddin of BAU, who conducted the study, told the FE that the contribution of processed products to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 2.0 per cent, where in Thailand it is about 7.4 per cent, in the Philippines 10.4 per cent, and in Sri Lanka 7.4 per cent.
Only 20-25 processing industries export some of their processed products, which include pickles, jam, jellies, chutneys, sauces, juices, puffed rice, and drinks etc worth US $220-250 million annually.
He further said Vietnam exports processed agro products worth $2.0 billion, while Thailand exports more than $5.0 billion.
“Our exports are not increasing compared to the competitors, as we could not raise the volume of processed products and their diversities.”
He said if the country can process at least 5.0 per cent of the farm produces, its export can rise to more than $2.0 billion.
Dr Md Azhar Ali, Additional Director of Plant & Quarantine Wing under Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), told the FE that export of raw agro produces has gradually becoming critical amid imposition of various quarantine rules and regulations by different nations.
He said the country should maximise its volume of processed food items to avoid such problems.
Md Masudur Rahman, General Secretary of BAPA, told the FE that the country’s 500 processors now export items to 66 different countries in the world.
He also said the government’s more support is needed to increase the number of agro processing units. Despite being agro-based industries, the processors are yet to get loan at single digit interest rate.
The government should provide suitable lands to the processors for boosting their production.
Besides, a central libratory is needed, which can be set up through Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative, to minimise harassment and raise exports, he added.
Md Sharifur Rahman, proprietor of M/S Shohan Enterprise, told the FE that air cargo facilities should be increased manifold.
He said Bangladeshi exporters count Tk 190-213 to ship per kg products, whereas it is only Tk 40-50 for the exporters of Thailand and Vietnam.
Bangladesh exports agro produces worth $600 million annually, of which the processed products contribute $220-250 million.
The major destinations for Bangladeshi products are the UK, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle East countries, Thailand, India, Oman, Korea, Bahrain, Japan, South Africa and the US.