Vol. 4 Num 237 Sat. January 24, 2004  

Bangladeshi goods fail to make way to Italy despite potential

Despite having potential, Bangladeshi products are hardly seen in Italian shops for lack of efforts on the part of Bangladesh businesses to explore market and export quality goods.

Bangladeshi businessmen in Italy, who sell and promote products from other Asian, African and Latin American countries, made the remarks.

While visiting different cities in Italy, including Rome and Milan, the UNB correspondent found big grocery shops owned by Bangladeshis. One of them is 'Alimentary', full of Indian food items.

Rice, pulses, spices, fish, vegetables and other essential food items are imported from India. Sri Lankan and Indonesian goods are also there in the shops.

A few Bangladeshi fish and green vegetables are available in the shops owned by Bangladeshis. Bangladeshi frozen fishes reach Italy after strict scrutiny in London.

Mujibur Rahman alias Haris, a Bangladeshi expatriate businessman living in Milan, said, "Bangladeshi products cannot enter the Italian market for their poor quality and delay in shipment."

Another Bangladeshi, Delwar Hossain alias Dipu, living in the same city, said now a Bangladeshi businessman is exporting rice to Italy in a limited scale.

Dipu said another Bangladeshi used to export rice in the past. "In the first shipment, the rice he sent was good but in the next shipment he supplied inferior quality of rice, causing huge loss to the importer. Fish exporters also do the same thing," Dipu said.

Haris said most items imported from Bangladesh are not released by the customs authority, causing huge loss to the investors apart from bruising Bangladesh's image.

About the country's image crisis, he said, "Whenever Bangladeshi items reach the port, customs officials become extra cautious and carefully check those, delaying their release. But Indian items hardly face such problem."

Another businessman, Qamruzzaman Shameem, a Bangladeshi-born Canadian immigrant, said high prices of Bangladeshi products are one of the main reasons why Bangladesh goods cannot make their way into foreign markets.

"Bangladeshis don't have long-term business strategies. They tend to make money at a time. But Indians have long-term business policies. So, they prefer marginal profit and thus capture the market," Shameen said.

Anwar Hossain, another businessman in Italy, said, "I'll obviously prefer the products of my own country if I get those in a convenient way -- fair price and timely shipment."

Some 50,000 Bangladeshis live in Italy, according to the councsellor section of Bangladesh Embassy in Rome. But various associations of Bangladeshis in Italy claimed that the number would over 80,000, including the illegal immigrants.

Like Bangladeshis, Indians, Sri Lankans, Filipinos and Thais have almost the same food habit. They buy food items from shops owned by Bangladeshis.

At present, garments are the main Bangladeshi items in Italy, but the business remains afloat because of Italian importers.

Anjuman Ara, a Bangladeshi housewife in Milan, said, "As Bangladeshis we want to buy our country-made products, but Bangladeshi goods are rarely seen in stores."

Nahida Islam, first secretary (bilateral) of Bangladesh Embassy in Rome, said, "We are ready to support Bangladeshi businessmen if they are interested in introducing their products in Italian market. But the problem is that they are not communicative."

For instance, she said, once they arranged an appointment with an Italian businessman at the request of a Bangladeshi businessman. "Everything was ready, but at the eleventh hour the Bangladeshi businessman cancelled the appointment," the Embassy official said.

She said: "Bangladeshi businessmen need to show sincerity alongside maintaining the quality of products and taking care of foreign buyers' requirements."