After being in suspension for seven long years, the export of seedless lemons to the European market will resume next week.
The European Union had banned the import of lemons from Bangladesh due to the presence of canker bacteria and some fungal diseases in the lemons.
According to the Plant Quarantine Wing under the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) and Bangladesh Fruit, Vegetable and Allied Products Exporters Association (BFVAPEA), seedless lemons will be allowed to be exported from 7 or 8 March.
Additional Director of the Plant Quarantine Wing Md Shamsul Alam told The Business Standard, "We will allow the export from next week since the diseases that used to be a problem in lemons are no more."
Sources concerned said lemons have been exported from Bangladesh to various countries in the Middle East and Europe for a long time. The list included Jara, Kagoji and seedless lemons. However, in Europe, after testing all types of lemons in 2013-14, only seedless lemons were found to have canker bacteria and some fungal diseases. For the same reason, some diseases are also found in Kagoji lemons.
At the time, import of seedless lemons from Bangladesh was banned in European countries. Later, a delegation from the European Union visited lemon orchards in Bangladesh and proffered advice on how to produce this disease-free lemon.
Following the advice, clusters were formed with lemon growers in different parts of the country. These clusters were formed at several places, including Jaintapur and Shrimangal in Sylhet, Phulpur in Mymensingh and Madhupur. Besides, several clusters of jara lemon growers were made in Narsingdi. In these clusters, with the assistance of DAE, bacterial and fungal disease free lemons are now being cultivated.
Sources said once the export of seedless lemons starts, beside the ongoing jara lemon export, the amount of export will double. Needless to say, foreign exchange will also increase through the export of agricultural products.
Advisor to the BFVAPEA Manjurul Islam told TBS, "Disease-free lemon production has started due to the joint initiative of the association and the government. As a result, we are going to start exporting lemons to the European market again."
Plant Quarantine Wing officials said the diseases were no longer being found in lemons produced in the clusters. That is why the government was allowing new exports.
It is to be noted that permission has to be obtained from the Plant Quarantine Wing for export of agricultural products.
Plant Quarantine Wing Deputy Director of Shampur Central Packing House Md Abul Kalam told TBS, "Next Sunday, after inspecting a few clusters, we will officially allow the export of lemons. From now on, there will be no more obstacles in the export of seedless lemons."
Md Bipul, a lemon grower at a cluster in Sylhet, said that he had planted a seedless lemon orchard on about 10 acres of land. He hopes to get a good price for lemons when exports start.
He said, "Since the establishment of clusters, the agricultural extension officers have started regular monitoring. They give us various kinds of advice. In line with the advice, we are now cultivating disease-free lemons."
It was learnt from a number of lemon growers from different clusters that when the buds of lemons appear, a particular medicine has to be applied 10 times a day. If this medicine is given for a month, the canker infection does not occur again.
According to data from the Plant Quarantine Wing, 422 metric tonnes of lemon were exported in the 2017-18 financial year. The next year, the export volume more than doubled as 880 metric tonnes of lemons were exported. In the 2019-20 financial year, 850 MT lemons were exported. These exported lemons are known as jara lemons. At present, the export price of per kg lemon to Europe is £3.5-£3.75.
According to BFVAPEA, in the 2019-20 fiscal year, agricultural products worth $164.5 million were exported to various countries of the world. At present Bangladesh exports 25-30 types of agricultural products.