Bangladesh world’s third highest vegetable exporter

The agricultural sector in Bangladesh has made significant strides thanks to the development, acceptance, and implementation of policies that prioritize the well-being of farmers. Having achieved food self-sufficiency, the focus now is on modernizing agriculture, expanding the range of agricultural exports, and earning foreign currency. Currently, Bangladesh exports a diverse range of agricultural products to several foreign nations.

According to the Bangladesh Export Development Bureau, key agricultural exports include jute and jute-based products, aromatic rice, vegetables, fruits, spices, tobacco, dried foods, and related goods. The total value of agricultural product exports for the first nine months of the most recent fiscal year, from July to March, reached $958 million.

Fragrant rice, highly regarded for its exceptional quality, makes up a significant portion of Bangladesh’s agricultural exports. The country predominantly exports its agricultural products to the European Union, the Middle East, and the Gulf region, with a significant market consisting of expatriates from Bangladesh and other South Asian countries now residing in these areas.

Agricultural goods present substantial potential for diversifying import-export products, and Bangladesh enjoys a substantial global market for its farm products. Technological advancements and the production of high-quality goods play a critical role in driving Bangladesh’s rapid progress.

The Export Development Bureau reported twelve years ago that agricultural product exports generated only $400 million in revenue. Since then, the sector’s export revenues have experienced substantial growth, with a few significant deviations.

Out of the $100 million worth of agricultural products that Bangladesh has exported, the proportion of processed food products has been significantly higher.

Many countries around the world rely heavily on imports to produce adequate processed food. Therefore, it is crucial for our country’s agricultural industry to focus on expanding production and diversifying exports to support an increase in the exportation of agricultural products.

Furthermore, several factors constrain the potential for agricultural exports. Delays in securing sufficient space on aircraft for transporting the products are a significant concern.

Additionally, there is an urgent need for an increased number of laboratories capable of conducting necessary testing on a wide range of items, including phytosanitary certification for agricultural products involved in international trade and addressing issues such as inadequate packaging.

The challenge of obtaining the accreditation of being “fit for human consumption” has significantly hindered the export of agricultural products.

It is imperative for the Bangladeshi government to establish an entity responsible for issuing such certifications.

At present, the Department of Agriculture Extension, the Department of Fisheries, and the Department of Livestock are responsible for issuing certifications for exporting agricultural products, fish, meat, and other animal products, respectively, in Bangladesh.

During the production phase, the Bangladesh Norms and Testing Institute (BSTI) validates 181 goods according to Bangladeshi standards. The Islamic Foundation certifies that they are Halal for export to the Middle East.

Nevertheless, neither of these organisations can provide the certificate confirming that the product is “suitable for human consumption” as required by the importing countries. To tackle this challenge, it is essential to establish a single “Health Certification Authority” that will be responsible for setting these standards.

The establishment of laboratories accredited to international standards will then effectively implement these standards. To do so, we can tap into the country’s significant export potential.

There are estimates suggesting that by investing in a laboratory compliant with international standards and issuing the corresponding certificates, the country’s exports could experience a significant boost, potentially leading to an annual increase in foreign exchange revenues of up to thirteen billion dollars.

To address phytosanitary issues effectively, the Ministry of Agriculture is proactively working on establishing a laboratory that will meet international standards and accreditation. The laboratory will be strategically located on a two-acre plot of land in the eastern part of Dhaka. The government is actively implementing measures to ensure the traceability of agricultural products according to Good Agricultural Practices, with the aim of supplying these items to mainstream supermarkets.

Fostering collaboration between the government and business entities is essential to facilitating the promotion of agricultural product exports. In order to achieve a prosperous and dependable position in the agriculture export industry, it is vital to identify essential activities, establish a comprehensive plan, and promptly put it into action.

In order to thrive in the global market, we must prioritise the development of a highly skilled workforce by enhancing the capacity and effectiveness of relevant institutions. Adhering to stringent rules and employing highly skilled individuals is essential for meeting global standards and competition.

While the global demand for fresh agricultural products is relatively low, there is a growing need for processed products, particularly pre-prepared or easily prepared meals, in both developed and developing countries.

Therefore, it is crucial to focus on advancing the agro-processing industry. Achieving this goal requires enhancing research efforts to create a wide range of high-quality food products using agricultural resources.

It’s noteworthy that Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest producer of jackfruit and ranks third in the production of onions, vegetables, and rice.

Bangladesh holds the ninth position in mango and guava production. Improving the marketing of processed products derived from these fruits requires more robust research to match the existing output and demand. To promote export trade, it is important to introduce measures that enable the exportation of a wide variety of products without restrictions.

Bangladesh’s embassies and missions abroad play a crucial role in identifying high-demand items in various global locations. Notably, processed food products from Bangladeshi companies like Pran and Square have gained international popularity, indicating significant potential for industry growth. To fully leverage this opportunity, it is essential to diversify the range of exported goods and proactively establish new markets.

The Bangladeshi government has proactively prioritised agricultural and agro-food processing businesses for special attention and support in the Export Policy 2021–24. The Industrial Policy 2022 recognizes this industry as a critical contributor to export diversification.

Additionally, as part of the Eighth Five-Year Plan 2021–25, the present administration has prioritised the manufacturing of processed food and diverse agricultural products to implement a comprehensive growth strategy that ensures food security.

If the United Nations delists Bangladesh as a least developed country in 2026, it will present an opportunity for the country to explore new avenues for growth and development, fostering self-sustainability and fostering new trade partnerships.

To tackle this challenge, it’s essential to ensure food quality through modern laboratory techniques, establish specialised cold storage facilities, conduct extensive research to develop processed food products, and utilise contemporary technology for marketing purposes. In this scenario, overcoming this barrier is entirely within reach.

Diversifying agricultural exports has the potential to generate foreign exchange and reduce expatriates’ reliance on exporting ready-made clothing and income. Export diversification can achieve all these advantages.

A hypothetical future occurrence of the “Dutch disease,” which refers to excessive reliance on a particular product, could trigger the change.

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