Annual vegetable exports from Chattogram by air have decreased by Tk40 crore as a result of the closure of international flights amid the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
During normal times, about 3,000 tonnes of vegetables are exported to various countries in the Middle East through Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport every year.
Besides, fruit exports account for about 10% compared to vegetables exported.
According to the Plant Quarantine Station of Shah Amanat International Airport, 3,000 tonnes of vegetables were exported by air from Chattogram in the 2018-19 financial year, which fell by 900 tonnes to 2,100 tonnes in the 2019-20 fiscal year.
In the fiscal year 2020-21, the export of vegetables further decreased by 3% to 1,100 tonnes.
No vegetables were exported through Chattogram airport in 2021-22 as international flights were suspended.
Vegetable exporters said the average selling price of vegetables is $2.5 per kilogram or Tk200. As such, the price of 3,000 tonnes of vegetables is Tk60 crore.
The vegetable export season starts from March and continues till November when vegetables are exported to various countries such as Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.
ForkanRubel, general secretary of the Chattogram Vegetable Exporters Association, said even though his company exports 900 tonnes of vegetables a year through Chattogram Airport during normal times, this amount decreased by about 3% in the last financial year.
He could not yet start exporting yet in the current financial year. Due to the closure of international flights with Chattogram, a limited quantity of vegetables has to be exported through Dhaka Airport.
Vegetables are collected from different parts of the country including Chattogram, Dhaka, Jashore, Gazipur, Narsingdi and Cumilla for export, he added.
ShaibalKanti Nandi, deputy director of Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport Plant Quarantine Centre, said about 59 types of vegetables and local fruits are exported through the airport every year.
The most common vegetables which are exported through Chattogram Airport are potato, taro stolon (commonly known as kochur loti in Bangladesh), taro root (kochu), jackfruit, lemon, ridge gourd, bean, spiny gourd, snake gourd, cucumber, red spinach, mango, etc.
International flights through Shah Amanat Airport was reopened on 17 August after it was suspended on 14 April. However, private airlines, including state-owned airlines, have not yet resumed international flights.
Vegetable exporters have said they would restart vegetable exports once international flights resume.
Farhad Hossain Khan, Wing Commander of Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport, told TBS airport authorities have all-out preparations for the launch of international flights. The airlines are preparing to operate flights.
Four to five tonnes of vegetables are being exported daily through Dhaka Airport.
About 15 companies are involved in exporting vegetables from Chattogram to different parts of the world, employing at least 200 workers who have become unemployed as the export of vegetables has stopped.