The exporters can see huge potentiality in tomato exports. They believe it could be a major source of foreign exchange earnings for Bangladesh as there is huge demand for Bangladeshi vegetables in different countries around the world– especially in Middle Eastern countries.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has exported tomatoes to Malaysia by sea for the first time. The country has exported 75 tonnes of tomatoes worth Tk3,750,000 to Malaysia through Chattogram Port in February and March.
These tomatoes are sold on the Malaysian market at Tk50 per kilogramme. As such, Bangladesh exported tomatoes (75,000 kilogrammes at Tk50 per kilogramme) in two months.
As tomatoes are sold at Tk 5-10 per kilogramme on local markets during the peak season, its exports by sea will bring smiles to farmers’ faces – according to the exporters.
According to the Chattogram Seaport Plant Quarantine Centre, Bangladesh exports about 60,000 tonnes of vegetables – including potatoes, cabbage, kochur loti (taro stolon) – by sea, every year, to several countries in the Middle East as well as in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Brunei.
According to the Chattogram Vegetable Exporters’ Association, although various vegetables worth $20 million were exported through Chattogram Airport every year, tomatoes were not exported.
This year, tomatoes were added to the list of vegetables exported by sea, they said.
Md Nasir Uddin, deputy director of Plant Quarantine Station at Chattogram Seaport, said “If it is possible to harvest tomatoes and ship them within two to three days, we can utilise the tomato export potential to the full as lots of tomatoes are cultivated in almost every region of Bangladesh.”
With this, Bangladesh has the potential to earn a lot of foreign exchange from tomato exports, he added.
The exporter said residents of other countries including expatriate Bangladeshis – are also customers of these tomatoes in Malaysia.
Once the facilities relevant for goods exports – including cold storage and processing centers are ensured, it will be possible for Bangladesh to earn more foreign exchange by exporting vegetables.
As seeking approval from various organisations is time consuming due to procedural complexities, traders are reluctant to export vegetables by sea.
However, through proper processes, tomato exports can be started to countries five to seven days away by sea. Alongside Malaysia, there are opportunities to export tomatoes to Singapore and Sri Lanka.