Published at: The Financial Express, March 03, 2019
The country has witnessed a gradual fall in potato exports for the last few years as Russia, Indonesia and the Philippines — three leading exporting destinations for Bangladeshi potato-imposed restrictions on its import, insiders said.
The Bangladesh Tariff Commission (BTC), however, placed six-point recommendation recently, focusing on ‘varietal development and maintaining quarantine rules strictly’ to boost potato export, officials said.
A total of 200 exporters of the country shipped 48,000 tonnes of potato worth US$11.26 million in the last fiscal year (FY’18) which was 55,000 tonnes worth $13 million in FY’17, according to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and Bangladesh Potato Exporters Association (BPEA).
Bangladesh made a record shipment of 0.102 million tonnes of potato worth $35 million in FY’14 while it was 0.094 million tonnes worth $33 million in FY’15, according to EPB.
“But export started decreasing significantly from next year (FY’16) as Russia and later Vietnam and Indonesia imposed restrictions on its import on the grounds of finding few disease-affected consignments,” Kazi Mahbub Morshed, proprietor of Kanak International, said.
“We could export only 40,000 tonnes of potato in FY’ 16 mainly to Malaysia, Singapore, European Union and Nepal,” he said.
Now Sri Lankan importers are not showing interest to import our crop, he said, adding that Bangladesh has made a great progress in last four years in quarantine issues thanks to the initiatives taken by the government.
“But shipment is being hindered due to lack of exportable varieties of potato despite having a demand in the globe,” he added.
Dr Sheikh Abdul Kader, president of BPEA, said it took a long time (minimum five years) to release a potato variety in the country.
“We have just one or two varieties including diamond variety in our hands to export.”
There is a huge demand for ‘long shape’ potato in the world but they usually produce ’round shape’ potato like granola, he said.
Deputy Director (export) of PQW Md Anwar Hossain Khan told the FE that the country has made a massive progress in compliance issues.
He said only six cases of non-compliance was recorded last FY for Bangladeshi consignments abroad which was more than 195 in FY’14.
The PQW made it mandatory for the exporters to collect crops from the farmers who have adopted good agricultural practice (GAP), hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), traceability and maximum residue limit (MRL), he added.
“We have also made it compulsory for the traders to collect produce from contract growers under the supervision of upazila agriculture officers.”
He also expressed the hope that Russian and other markets will reopen soon.
However, the Tariff Commission in its latest study styled ‘Potato Cultivation in Bangladesh: Present Scenario & Export Prospects,” placed six-point recommendation to the commerce ministry to boost potato export.
The market scanning was recommended for releasing varieties of potatoes within a short time when it takes five to eight years in the country.
It said availability of exportable varieties could make the country competitive in the global market.
It also recommended easing import procedures of European potato seed considering phytosanitary complexities.
The commission recommended permit imports of minimum 25 tonnes of seed potatoes at a time as international containers don’t carry produce below 25 tonnes.
The BTC also put emphasis on a public-private partnership (PPP) between Tuber Crop Research Centre (TCRC) under the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and the private sector.
It also suggested removing the barriers to export potato to Russia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand through government initiatives.
Bangladesh produced 10.05 million tonnes of potato in FY’18 while it is planning to harvest 10.1 million tonnes in the current fiscal year, according to the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE).
The country’s demand for potato is highest 8.0 million tonnes, according to the food ministry.