Agriculture Minister M Abdur Razzak has said the export of agricultural products is not increasing due to the lack of internationally recognised certification regarding packaging and food safety.
To boost exports of agricultural products, a world-class, state-of-the-art packhouse and accreditation laboratory will be set up in the capital's Purbachal, the minister said while speaking as the chief guest at a seminar titled "Modern Pack House Facilities and Construction of Accredited Laboratory" on Tuesday.
The Horticulture Export Development Foundation (Hortex) organised the seminar at the auditorium of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council at Farmgate in the capital.
Razzak said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had given two acres of land in Purbachal to the Ministry of Agriculture for setting up a modern packhouse and quick initiatives and projects would be taken up for the construction of the packhouse.
If it is built, the export of fruits and vegetables to Europe, the Middle East and other countries will increase many times and agriculture will be able to make a huge contribution to the overall economy of the country, he hoped.
The minister further said agriculture is moving towards mechanisation and commercialisation, and agriculture must be modern.
"Therefore, the international market for agricultural products must increase. The hurdle is the lack of internationally accepted certification for packaging and food safety. If packhouses and labs are set up, the obstacles will be removed. Also, being close to the airport will facilitate the transportation of goods," he explained.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are exported from Bangladesh to different countries of the world, including the European Union. Besides, the demand for processed food is increasing day by day. The global market size is about $10,000 billion.
In today's world, exporting countries have to supply food products according to the needs of the importing countries. Phytosanitary certificates are also issued following the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures adopted by the International Plant Protection Convention.
Nowadays, the importing countries also mention the Good Agricultural Practices Certificate and MRL, heavy metal and microorganisms on their list of demands.
Fresh vegetables and fruits are exported from Bangladesh to about 43 countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Greece, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, the Middle Eastern countries, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka.
In the 2019-20 fiscal year, fresh vegetables and fruits worth $165 million were exported from Bangladesh. Besides, potatoes worth $23 million were exported.
The establishment of modern packhouse facilities and accredited laboratories is essential to accelerate this trend of export of vegetables and fruits.
A "Consultation Workshop" has been organised to seek the views of experts, the experience of officials of the department concerned, and the views and suggestions of the users for the construction of the packhouse.
Agriculture Secretary Md Mesbahul Islam presided over the workshop. Additional Secretary (Extension) to the Ministry of Agriculture Md Hasanuzzaman Kallol, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council Sheikh Mohammad Bakhtiyar, Managing Director of Hortex Foundation Md Manjurul Hannan, and former director general of the Department of Agricultural Extension Md Hamidur Rahman spoke on the occasion.
The keynote address at the seminar was given by Professor Dr Moha Kamrul Hasan of the Department of Horticulture, Bangladesh Agricultural University.
Experts from various universities, research institutes, researchers, fruit and vegetable exporters' associations, value chain experts, laboratory experts, scientists and representatives were present at the programme.