Animal feed manufacturers in Bangladesh have criticised the commerce ministry for allowing soybean meal export to India when both the countries face the same crisis over the raw material for the feed industry. They have demanded an immediate halt to the exports considering the country's crisis.
"The commerce ministry has decided to stand by the feed producers and farmers of other countries, leaving its own country's feed manufacturers, farmers and consumers in a state of chaos," Md Ahsanuzzaman, general secretary of Feed Industries Association Bangladesh (Fiab), said while reading out a written statement at a press conference on Wednesday.
"In the interest of the country, the agriculture, food, and livestock ministries have already requested the commerce ministry not to allow the export of the raw material. With the decision to export soybean meal, its producers are now creating an artificial crisis in the country and raising the price of the raw materials. That is why both consumers and the industry are suffering."
At the press conference titled "Stop soybean meal exports to ensure affordable availability of eggs, milk, fish, and meat", the Fiab leaders said the decision to export soybean meal in the fragile situation of the global supply chain has put feed producers in Bangladesh in trouble.
They said feed production is being hampered due to the raw material crisis and it is eventually creating an impact on prices, which is affecting the entire livestock sector.
Md Ahsanuzzaman said that soybean meal comes as a by-product of soybean oil-producing companies in Bangladesh. This soybean meal covers 75-80% of the raw material demand of the feed industry. The rest is imported from different countries, especially from India. India has never imported from Bangladesh. But the global raw material crisis has also affected India.
Exploiting the export opportunity, soybean meal producers are creating an artificial crisis in the country's market and raising the price of raw materials. Since the decision to export was taken, the price has gone up by Tk10-12 per kg in 10-15 days.
"The survival of medium and small industries will be a big challenge. Because the price of raw materials is going up, the price of feed is not going to increase at that rate," said the Fiab general secretary.
"As the price of feed has gone up, the prices of fish, chicken and eggs have started shooting up too, which is putting pressure on general consumers."
He said India stopped onion exports to Bangladesh when there was an onion crisis here. Again, it did not provide Covid-19 vaccines even after receiving payment in advance.
"Now the crisis in India is being given bigger importance without considering the crisis of the local industry. But once India's soybean harvesting season begins in October, it will no longer import the raw material," said the secretary-general.
Citi Group, Meghna Group, TK Group, Bangladesh Edible Well, Bashundhara, and a handful of other companies import soybean seeds at zero tariffs for soybean oil production.
Fiab President Ehtesham B Shahjahan said, "They are supposed to supply their by-product to us by importing soybean seeds at zero duty. But they are creating a crisis around it."
In the last one year, he said, the prices of feed raw materials have increased by an average of 34.22%. This is expected to increase the price of feed by 20-25%, but the feed companies have increased the price of feed by only 6-8%. Many small and medium mills are on the verge of closing down as they cannot compete.
Asked if the current crisis could be met by importing the raw material, Ehtesham B Shahjahan said it could have been imported faster from India earlier, but now it will take at least 60-70 days to import from America. In addition, imports are riskier due to congestion on shipping lines.
The two main raw materials of animal feed are corn and soybean meal. Up to 20-25% of soybean meal is used as raw material in food.