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Bangladesh's reputation as a vegetable exporter is suffering due to a lack of regulations affecting the quality of goods being sent abroad. The
presence of pests and harmful organisms in vegetables and local exporters' presentation of fake phyto-sanitary certificates are tainting the country's image abroad as a vegetable exporter and often leads to foreign buyers imposing a ban on vegetable exports from Bangladesh.
A recent study - Export Readiness of Vegetables Sector of Bangladesh - by Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI) highlighted the necessity of maintaining sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures and quality standards of vegetables.
Poor standard testing facilities, an underdeveloped transportation system, poor market infrastructure, unscientific packaging, and various constraints at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) and other ports are severely affecting the export of vegetables from Bangladesh, it added.
According to sector insiders, the country's vegetable exports have declined substantially over the last couple of years, although vegetable production has increased considerably.
As per the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) statistics, the country exported vegetables worth about US$ 103.24 million in the last fiscal year (FY), 2014-15, as against $ 147.55 million in the previous fiscal, marking a fall of about 30.03 per cent.
Export of vegetables during the first eight months of the current FY, 2015-16, also experienced a negative growth of about 40 per cent. Vegetables worth about $ 58.07 million were exported during the period, as against $ 77.85 million during the same period last fiscal.
The recent ban on direct air shipment from Dhaka to London has also aggravated the situation further. The UK government banned direct cargo flights from HSIA to UK from March 8 until further notice on security concerns.
Bangladesh export vegetables include potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, pointed gourd, beans, brinjal, okra and citrus fruits. The major destination countries are Saudi Arabia, the EU, the UK, Malaysia, the UAE, Qatar, Singapore, Russia, Italy, Kuwait, Canada, Sri Lanka and Bahrain.
According to Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters Association (BFVAPEA), about 47-48 per cent of Bangladesh's fruits and vegetables are sent to the EU.
The EU threatened to ban fruit and vegetable imports from Bangladesh after harmful worms and bacteria were found in goods early last year.