Dhaka vying with Delhi for foreign vegetable markets

May 21st, 2008 - 4:08 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, May 21 (IANS) Bangladesh, increasingly competing with India for the fresh vegetables markets in the Gulf region and Europe, has marked a 40 percent hike in exports this year - thanks to increased off-take by foreign airlines of the perishable commodity. Foreign airlines Qatar Airways, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways and Emirates, previously reluctant to carry perishable products such as vegetables, have been carrying more of them and helping accelerate Bangladeshi exports.

“India is our main competitor. If we are to compete with Indian products, the government should provide freight subsidy to boost exports,” Mohammed Monsur, owner of one of the biggest exporters, Monsur General Trading Company, told The Daily Star newspaper Tuesday.

Some experts believe foreign airlines have begun carrying more perishable products to make up for a reduction in other business, with garment exporters now happy to send goods through a more efficient Chittagong port.

Garment exports, where too Bangladesh is competing with India and many Southeast Asian nations, are Dhaka’s top foreign exchange earners.

In the nine months to March 31, exports of perishable agricultural produce rose to $90.38 million, up 38 percent on the corresponding period a year earlier. The increase marks a sharp rebound from the performance in 2006-07 when exports fell.

“It’s good that foreign airlines are now willing to carry more, and we will be able to increase exports even further if we get more air cargo space,” said SM Jahangir Hossain, president of Bangladesh Fruits Vegetables & Allied Products Exporters’ Association (BFVAPEA).

Increased carrying of perishable products by foreign carriers has also helped to reduce the pressure on the state-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

Biman now carries about 60 percent of total agri-products, down from 80 percent, a Biman official said.

Qatar Airways alone has doubled its off-take - from three tonnes to six tonnes daily - to London, Qatar, Rome, Frankfurt and Milan, the newspaper said.

According to exporters, about 40 categories of products are exported through air routes with bitter gourd, bean, green chilli, potato, papaya, jack fruit and mango dominating the overall basket.

Millions of non-resident Bangladeshis as well as expatriate workers, living in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom, are the main consumers of local agri-products.

Bangladesh’s products are also being exported to Italy, Germany, France, Kuwait and Qatar.

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