The government has imposed a self-ban on vegetable export to the European Union market to avert any possible ban to be imposed by the bloc from where Bangladesh has been receiving objections for the last few years over the quality of Bangladeshi vegetables and fruits.
Rather the government is focusing on encouraging local growers to correct themselves following Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), according to a special report by UNB.
However, the government has introduced “contract farming” for local growers who will be allowed to export to the EU market maintaining the required quality, confirms officials at the Commerce Ministry and Agriculture Ministry.
Contract farming is an agricultural production carried out as per an agreement between a buyer and farmers, which establishes conditions for the production and marketing of a farm product or products. Under such an agreement, the farmer agrees to provide agreed quantities of a specific agricultural product.
"The measure has been taken since many are reportedly exporting vegetables through producing fake Phytosanitary certificates. Such practices bring more harm than benefits," Commerce Secretary (in-charge) Subhashish Bose said during an interview with the news agency.
Phytosanitary certificates are issued to indicate that the consignments of plants, plant products or other regulated articles meet specified phytosanitary import requirements, and are in conformity with the certifying statement of the appropriate model certificate.
"We want to export quality products. Nobody wants to see that the entire market door gets closed for a handful of people who are forging documents or their products with problems," said the Commerce Secretary.
Contacted, Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters Association (BFVAPEA) General Secretary Mohammad Monsur said during a meeting at the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) in the beginning of May, a committee was formed comprising representatives from EPB, Department of Agricultural Extension, Agriculture Ministry and vegetable exporters. The committee is scheduled to write to Commerce and Agriculture Ministries recommending easing rules to remove export difficulties.
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A stock picture of a fruit market in Europe Bigstock
"There has been no decision yet," Mohammad Monsur said, adding that he does not have any idea whether the self-ban on vegetables export to the EU market will be withdrawn at all or not.
Responding to a question on contract farming, the exporter said this government initiative is not properly being implemented for lack of trainers at the Department of Agricultural Extension.
"Without proper monitoring, farmers cannot grow quality products."
Vegetable exporters in another letter, dated April 16, to the Commerce Ministry mentioned that it is not justified to impose a ban on export of all types of vegetables in the name of contract farming.
They mentioned that some exporters in the country's various regions are producing vegetables with support from vegetable exporters' associations maintaining good agricultural practice and demanded the removal of ban on vegetable export.
Deputy director of Plant Quarantine Station at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport Hafizur Rahman said this initiative (self-ban) has been taken considering the future consequences that Bangladesh might face in the EU market.
He, however, said there has been no ban on export to other countries.
Hafizur Rahman said the EU alerted Bangladesh on its products -- vegetables and fruits -- in the past but some exporters took some dubious steps.
Citing an example, he said, the export of betel leaf from Bangladesh remained banned to the EU market since last three years as the EU wants disease- and pest-free vegetables and fruits.
"Since the ban, we couldn't remove it despite many efforts. So, in the case of vegetables export, we've imposed a self-ban. We'll let them know our products are safe once we can produce as per their requirements. Both the country and exporters will be benefited with this," Hafizur Rahman added.