Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday declared the pharmaceuticals products as the ‘product of the year’ to help boosting the export to grab more global market share.
Sheikh Hasina made the declaration while inaugurating the 23rd Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF)-2018, a platform to display products to attract buyers from home and abroad, at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC).
She declared the pharmaceuticals as the ‘product of the year’, saying the government would provide support to the sector to boost the export of medicines and other pharmaceutical products abroad during the year, reports BSS.
The prime minister hoped that the pharmaceutical sector, like readymade garments, would take Bangladesh to new heights of honour in the global arena within a very short time.
“To expand trade volume, you have to find new markets, develop quality products, enhance productivity, branding and overall efficiency to sustain in the global competition,” she said while inaugurating the 23rd Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF)-2018 at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) on Monday.
Last year, for the first time, the government declared leather and leather goods as product of the year. The declaration is a government initiative to promote a sector and help it develop.
What the sector needs to make use of this declaration
Pharmaceutical manufacturers and trade analysts have termed the move a timely and wise decision for the sector, as it is enjoying patent waivers and said it can be next to RMG in terms of export in the future.
But they urged the government to address the impediments the sector is currently facing, to make the declaration successful.
“It is not only a positive decision but also a timely decision. On behalf of the pharmaceuticals manufacturers, I welcome the prime minister’s decision to consider the sector as product of the year,” Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (Bapi) Advisor Abdul Muktadir told the Dhaka Tribune.
To reap benefits from the government’s declaration, what the sector needs is to have the process of investing abroad made easier, said Muktadir, who is the managing director of Incepta Pharmaceutical.
In exporting pharmaceutical products to EU, a manufacturers will have to set its own office or has to share other company’s office facilities to ensure testing and responding to any query,” Muktadir explained.
Since there are difficulties in investing outside the country, those who are exporting are forced to use other people’s offices and share profits. As a result, a large portion of profits are taken by outsiders, said Muktadir.
“Currently, we can invest only a portion of our profits for marketing, which is not ideal,” he added.
“Declaration will not bring benefits to manufacturers unless there are changes in the policies,” former caretaker government advisor AB Mirza Azizul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune.
Current export is bellow $100 million, which is very small compared to total exports, the economist remarked.
“We have to identify where the constraint is - in the supply side or in the demand side,” Azizul said.
If there is slow demand, manufacturers have to go on forward marketing and if it is an internal problem, then the government along with stakeholders should address it, said the analyst.
In the global trade, Bangladesh is already well known for RMG exports, and focusing on other products like pharmaceuticals would create a new identity, but quality needs to be ensured, he added.
Muktadir urged the government to take steps to get recognition of Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme (PICs) by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as it is needed for export.
“If we get recognition from WTO, we will be able to export medicine to 70 countries using our certification,” he added.
Advantage for Bangladesh pharma sector
In 2015,the World Trade Organization (WTO) Council extended patent waivers for pharmaceuticals products for its members in the Least Developed Countries category to January 2033.
As an LDC, Bangladesh would not need to pay royalty for producing patent drugs till 2032, which is a great opportunity for Bangladesh to improve its export share in the pharma products.
On the other hand, around 1,200 pharmaceutical products got registration for export, which is likely to result in a massive jump in earnings within the next three years.
Government has set target to earn $5 billion from the pharmaceuticals by 2021. In attaining the target exploring new markets is very crucial for the sector.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, Bangladesh earned $89 million from exporting pharmaceutical goods in the last fiscal year, which was $82.11 million in FY2015-16. While in July November of the current fiscal the sector earned $43.14 million posting 23.33% rise.
“We have already got quality products and we export to developed countries such as the US. What we need is to explore new markets. The government should engage the foreign diplomatic missions to search for opportunities,” SM Shafiuzzaman, secretary general of Bapi told the Dhaka Tribune.
The government should provide gas connections to the API Park as soon as possible to help pharma companies start production there, he added.
“Patent waiver has made people interested to invest in the pharma sector. It will increase the production capacity, which will push the export earnings up in near future,” said Shafiuzzaman.
At present, some 250 Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies are now meeting 97% of domestic demands while the industry is exporting to 107 countries, especially LDCs.