The European Union apparently looks serious in banning vegetable export from Bangladesh if any of the 28 member states rejects five consecutive consignments of vegetables from Dhaka after September 30, the deadline set by the regional group earlier.
The EU authorities in July categorically told the Bangladesh ambassador in Brussels that they would see whether the government was able to improve the standard of certification for vegetable export and slap a ban on such export from October 1 unless the situation improved.
Businessmen say ban on vegetable export from Bangladesh would harm the country’s international image as an exporter rather than financial loss. It would negatively impact the export to Europe —Bangladesh’s largest trading partner for decades.
Over the last one year, different airports in the EU states detected pests in the vegetable consignments from Bangladesh and destroyed hundreds of shipments, most of which had no phytosanitary certificates that would declare that the consignments were free from pests and insecticides.
Again, a few of the consignments had such certificates, but the authorities detected pests, prompting the EU for the first time to raise question about the certification standard of Bangladesh’s quarantine authorities.
The union asked the government to place an action plan according to which the exporters would send pest-and-pesticide-free vegetables.
The quarantine authorities had placed an action plan to the EU, promising that the agricultural extension wing would select some places for exclusive farming of vegetables for export to the member states. The agricultural extension would supervise from plantation to harvest of the vegetables.
“The EU position is: if any particular vegetable facing five consecutive interceptions [rejection] at airports after September 30, the particular item would face temporary ban,” Zillul Hye Razi, the trade adviser at the European Union mission in Dhaka, told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.
The government officials apprehend that the EU could totally ban vegetable export from Bangladesh, though they had been calling it ‘temporary ban’.
“We would have nothing to say had the EU banned our vegetable exports as the exporters were not cooperating with the government in many cases,” Ahsan Ullah, a deputy director of the quarantine wing, told the Dhaka Tribune.
An inter-ministerial meeting is scheduled to take place today on the implementation of the action plan submitted to the EU authorities.
Why this concern?
The EU maintains very strict guidelines to protect its environment and public health system from the attack of outside pests that intrude into Europe through different consignments of goods from across the globe.
In many cases, vegetable consignments contained some insects in spine (Kakrol) though these had phytosanitary certificates. In most of the cases, the exporters dispatched consignments without phytosanitary certificates.
Again, the EU airports detected betel leaf, which it banned for containing salmonella bacteria, causing health hazards in Britain, stashed in other vegetables. The EU pointed out to the government that secret export of betel leaf had been on, despite the government’s repeated assurances.
Ahsan Ullah said the exporters attach fake certificates for the export, with alleged help of the customs department at the airport. The quarantine wing and the customs wing blame each other for every reported interception in the EU.
The EU headquarters detected ‘(export) governance problem’ in Bangladesh, asking the authorities to improve the same.
According to the vegetables exporters’ association, Bangladesh earns over US $200 million every year by exporting vegetables. But the EU figures show that the annual vegetables export from Bangladesh stands at over Euro 10 million.