Peak season frozen food export slump likely to upset target
Doulot Akter Mala
Export of frozen foods has marked a significant fall of nearly 10 per cent during November-December period despite it being a peak season for sweet water prawn, the highest exporting seafood to the European countries, sources said.
Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association (BFFEA) president Maqsudur Rahman said the export has dropped slightly due to increase of processing cost as frozen foods exporters are sending such food to Singapore for detecting 'nitro-furan'.
"We are sending such food to Singapore before exporting, spending Tk 40,000 per consignment against the earlier cost of Tk 5,000 for shipment of each consignment," BFFEA president said.
He further said the EU countries are not willing to take risks of importing such vulnerable food, as they found no nitro-furan testing equipment at the labs of Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) during a recent visit of the EU team in the country.
The export of sweet water prawn has been facing setback as those are vulnerable to nitro-furan, a growth agent that might have been reaching the seafood item through the food chain.
The EU team, which visited the country last month, left disappointed after finding that the BCSIR labs did not have any nitro-furan testing equipment. However, the BCSIR had been issuing 'nitro-furan free certificates' against shrimp consignments.
The team will submit its fact-finding report to the director general of Food and Veterinary Office in the EU headquarters, sources said.
BFFEA officials feared that due to decline of export in the peak season, the export target fixed at US$ 450 million of this fiscal would be hard to attain.
But a frozen food exporter expressed optimism that they would be able to attain the target and make up for the shortfall soon.
"We have slowed down export as the report of the EU delegation is still pending," he said.
Lack of necessary testing equipment is also hindering the export to the EU countries, the largest export avenue of frozen food items, sources added.
BFFEA officials, however, claimed that export of frozen food during July-October period was 4.0 per cent more than the targeted amount.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), earning from frozen food export was $165.49 million in the July-October period, which was $98.81 million in the same period of 2004-05 fiscal.
The export from such items was $19.60 million in October of the last fiscal, that has inched up to $42.63 million during same time this fiscal, EPB and BFFEA sources confirmed.
Meanwhile, the four-member EU delegation, after a nine-day extensive visit to fish processing plants in Khulna and Chittagong region, have recommended prompt purchase of nitro-furan testing equipment.
Going by the recommendation of the EU team, the BFFEA decided to buy the detecting machine priced at nearly $ 400,000, within a short time and hand it over to the BCSIR lab.
The purchase decision was taken last November 23 at a meeting of association and with other stakeholders of the frozen food sub-sector, sources concerned said.
Minister of Fisheries and Livestock Abdullah al Noman and other high officials attended the meeting.