Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi on Saturday said the government permitted export of more than one lakh tonnes of rice in the last one and a half months.
"Once, Bangladesh was a crisis-ridden country in food and vegetable production. Those days have passed and we are now self-sufficient in food and agriculture," he said.
The minister was attending the closing ceremony of the 7th BAPA Foodpro International Expo 2019 at the International Conference Centre Bashundhara, Dhaka.
Mentioning that Bangladesh has a rice surplus, Tipu Munshi said, "We can now export rice due to an excess in the stock. In the last one and a half months, we have given permission for exporting over one lakh tonnes of rice."
At present, the country produces 70-80 percent of the total demand for food products, he said, adding that the people's outlook towards food has also changed and they have become selective while buying packaged food items.
Bangladesh now exports processed food products worth $373 million to 145 countries, and the amount will soon reach the one-billion-dollar mark, the minister added.
He assured the export-oriented food processing companies that the government will give them all necessary facilities, including cash incentives, in order to expand the export volume.
"But the companies must concentrate on producing food items of international standard so that nobody can question the quality of Bangladeshi products," he said.
Because, food processing and light engineering are the two sectors with the most potential in the country, he added.
Md Muazzem Hossain, the director general of the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), said product quality increases customer satisfaction. "For that reason, there is no alternative to producing quality food items."
Fatima Yasmin, the vice chairman of the Export Promotion Bureau, said the country's export sector is dependent only on a handful of products, and hindering of export of one item impacts the entire sector.
"So, it is necessary to diversify our export basket as well as develop the sector further," she said.
Eighty-four percent of the export earnings come from the ready-made garments sector. But, the sector experienced a negative growth globally in the last quarter of the year, and as a consequence, Bangladesh's earnings also dropped, Fatima said, adding "So, we have to focus on creating new export sectors."
Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, the chairman of the international expo and also the chairman and chief executive officer of the Pran-RFL group, underscored the need for cooperation by the quality controlling agencies with the food processing companies.
He urged the BSTI to ensure a quick rendering of necessary services for the companies. "Their cooperation and advice will help the sector grow rapidly."
The closing event was also attended, among others, by AFM Fakhrul Islam Munshi, the chairman of the Bangladesh Agro Processors Association (BAPA), and Babul Kumar Saha, the director general of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection.
The curtains fell on the three-day BAPA FoodPro International Expo on Saturday. Total 300 local and foreign companies took part in the fair this year.
BAPA has 300 member companies who export processed food to 144 countries in the world.
In the fiscal year 2018-19, these companies earned $372 million from export, and they are now working to elevate the export value to $1 billion by 2021.