Fruits and vegetables exporters are eyeing increased earnings on the back of rising demand in the traditional markets and emerging markets alike.
“The demand for fresh fruits and vegetable has gradually increased globally as many have switched to a vegetarian diet,” said SM Jahangir Hossain, president of Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters Association.
Bangladesh exported vegetables, including bitter gourd, brinjal, okra, bean, green chilli, cauliflower, worth over Tk 750 crore between July and May, which is 42.48 percent higher than in the same period a year ago, according to Export Promotion Bureau.
In that period, fresh fruit exports rose 35.91 percent year-on-year to Tk 547 crore.
Allied products such as betel leaf and coriander leaf are also exported.
In peak season, Bangladesh exports 450 tonnes of fruits and vegetables a week against the off-season shipments of about 180 tonnes, sector leaders said.
Expatriates from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal are the main consumers of the country’s produces.
The country charges $2-$2.2 for per kg of vegetable for Middle Eastern markets and $2.80-$3 a kg for European markets, Hossain said.
For fruits, $3.50-$5 is charged for each kg to Europe and $2.50-$3.5 for each kg to Middle East, he said.
Although the country exports to over 20 countries, Middle Eastern countries account for more than 55 percent of the exports, according to the exporters.
New markets have opened up in Malaysia, Sweden and Canada this year, said Mohammed Monsur, general secretary of the association.
Due to lower production in Thailand, Malaysian buyers have been procuring an increasing amount of green chilli from Bangladesh, said Abdullah Al Mahmud, owner of Abdullah Trading.
Around 100 tonnes of green chilli worth Tk 1.3 crore is shipped a week to Malaysia, with his company accounting for 25-30 tonnes at a price range of $1,700-$1,800 a tonne, he said.
But the sector has to battle a number of bottlenecks such as lack of cold chain facility, limited number of warehouses and frequent changes in air cargo fares, Hossain said.
Maintaining proper temperature is a must for exporting fruits and vegetables to developed countries such as Canada, Sweden and the UK, Hossain said.
“Besides, cold chain facility is needed for entry to superstores in Europe and Middle East,” he said.
Hossain called for more cold chains as the value addition of such perishable items are much higher than any other exports.
The recent hikes in Biman’s cargo fares have also affected the business, as exporters and importers of perishable goods usually ink business deals and set prices at the beginning of a year, he said.
“Exports of vegetables and fruits will be raised three times if all the bottlenecks are resolved in a year,” said the association chief.