Poster in Jul 08, 2024 13:04:39

Agricultural export products of Bangladesh are now on the import list

Agricultural export products of Bangladesh are now on the import list

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Potatoes were once an export product. Now the net import has become a commodity. Along with potatoes, carrots, green chilies, and tomatoes are also imported. Experts and exporters are talking about improving market management and storage systems as the import of agricultural products increases

Bangladesh was self-sufficient in potato production. Production was more than demand. Potatoes over demand were exported to 16 countries of the world. Three years ago, Bangladesh set a record of exporting 200,000 tons of potatoes. These stories of potato export are slowly becoming history. Because potatoes have been imported for the first time to meet the demand.

Several agricultural products like potatoes, green chilies, tomatoes, and carrots have to be imported during the crisis. The import of these agricultural products is increasing compared to before. On the contrary, exports are decreasing.

According to the National Board of Revenue (NBR), 98 thousand 731 tonnes of potatoes were imported in the recently concluded fiscal year 2023-24. At the same time, 12 thousand 352 tons of potatoes were exported. That is, about eight times the export of potatoes has been imported. Excluding export, the net import amount at this time is 85 thousand 913 tons. Comparing the import cost and export income, it can be seen that in the recent fiscal year, potato export income was about 3.8 million dollars. Against that, 1 crore 57 lakh dollars have been spent on imports.

Experts and exporters are calling for improved market management and storage systems as imports of once self-sufficient agricultural products increase. According to them, if market management and storage systems are improved, there will be no need to import many agricultural products like potatoes. It would ensure fair prices in the market as well as export.

How the export became the import product

Bangladesh ranks seventh in the world in potato production. In the 52 years since independence till the 2022-23 fiscal year, Bangladesh has never imported potatoes to meet its demand. Because, at that time the production was more than the demand. At this time potato seeds were mainly imported for potato production. Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the National Board of Revenue found such a figure.

However, the Ministry of Commerce decided to allow the import of potatoes on October 30, 2023, to keep the market stable due to the rising price of potatoes. Then, on November 2 last year, commercial import of potatoes started for the first time. Potatoes are imported through Hili, Sonamsjid, Burimari, and Benapole land ports.

The Department of Agricultural Extension has allowed traders to import 530,000 tonnes of potatoes in the outgoing financial year. According to NBR data, 1 crore 57 lakh dollars were spent on importing 98 thousand tons of potatoes in the outgoing financial year. The cost of import of potato per kg including customs duty is about 30 taka. These potatoes are being sold for Tk 55 to 60 in the retail market.

Potatoes are being imported at a time when the Department of Agriculture Extension is talking about increasing production. According to the company's preliminary, potato production in the outgoing financial year was 1 crore 9 lakh tonnes. About 15 percent of wastage occurs from the field stage to the marketing of potatoes. According to that, about 93 lakh tons of potatoes will be available, which is almost equal to the demand. However, cold store traders say that potato production has been low in the outgoing financial year.

Potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and green chilies are also being imported. Carrots and tomatoes were once imported in small quantities when the country was not in season. Imports are now steadily increasing. The same is the case with green chilies. Suppose the price increases in the country, the way of import is being opened to control the market. According to the data of NBR, in the outgoing fiscal year, the three products were imported around 90 thousand tons.

Exports are falling

According to FAO, potato exports have started consistently since 1999. A very small amount of potatoes were exported then. Exports are gradually increasing. The highest potato export was recorded in the fiscal year 2020-21. In that financial year, 2 lakh 8 thousand tons of potatoes were exported. In FY 2021-22, exports fell by nearly 50 percent to 1 lakh tonnes. In the fiscal year 2022-23, it further decreased to 34 thousand tons. This time it has decreased to about 12 thousand tons. Export destinations are also declining. Once Bangladeshi potatoes were exported to 16 countries in the world, now the export destination was reduced to 11. This year, cash support for potato exports has been reduced from 20 percent to 15 percent.

When asked why the export is decreasing, Ferdausi Begum, President of the Potato Exporters Association, said that last year, the cost was below Tk 30 per kg till the farmers collected the potatoes from the field and delivered them to the ship. Now it has exceeded Tk 40-45. But the export value in the world market is not increasing. Even with incentives, potato exports are suffering losses. The current situation in the potato market will further reduce exports.

There is no shortfall in potato production, he claimed, adding that if the market management is fixed, it is possible to meet the demand with the existing production as well as export.

According to the data of the International Trade Center, in 2022, potatoes were exported to the world market worth 424 crore dollars. France is the top potato exporter. In 2022, Bangladesh was ranked 26th in potato exports. As exports are decreasing, Bangladesh may fall further behind in the rankings.

Dependence on imports will increase

Import of agricultural products like onion, dal, and garlic is also increasing regularly due to production deficit. Self-sufficient products are also added to the list of imports. Questions have been raised about whether these agricultural products are becoming import-dependent or not.

Jahangir Alam, an agricultural economist and former vice-chancellor of Global Village University, said that the production of potatoes has not been increasing for two years. As the consumption of potatoes increases, the quantity of surplus potatoes is decreasing. When the surplus decreases, traders get a chance to manipulate. That causes price volatility, which is happening now. For this reason, there is no option to increase the surplus of potatoes. The data on the production of agricultural products, including potatoes, should be verified without inflating them so that the government can plan to increase production.

Source: Online/GFMM

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