- China halted import of crabs and eels from Bangladesh in October
- Harmful substances estradiol and cadmium were found in crabs and eels
- China suspended the import of crabs and eels from Bangladesh last June for the same reason
- Export was resumed last September after joint initiative from Bangladesh
- The ministry of fisheries selected five companies to export these items by maintaining China's demand
- Bangladesh exports shrimp and frozen fish worth about Tk4,500 crore annually
- Bangladesh exported crabs and eels worth around Tk600 crore in the last financial year
China suspended the import of live crabs and eels from Bangladesh in October, citing the presence of excessive harmful substances in them.
This was for the second time in four months Beijing took the measure two items after they found estradiol and cadmium beyond permissible limits in consignments shipped from Bangladesh.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock officials said they initiated efforts to resume the export to China. The ministry has selected five crab and eel exporters and trained them to ensure quality in accordance with the conditions given by China.
In October, China found an excessive amount of estradiol in a consignment of live eels and an excessive amount of cadmium in three consignments of crabs exported from Bangladesh. In response, the General Administration of Customs of China suspended the import of these two products on 10 October.
Estradiol is one kind of sex hormone which could affect wildlife and human health by disrupting their normal endocrine systems. And cadmium is a soft, malleable, bluish-white metal found in zinc ores. It is found in crabs due to the presence of excessive metals in the water where they are cultivated.
China had suspended the import of crabs and eels from Bangladesh last June for the same reason. Later, exports were resumed last September through the joint initiative of the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and the Bangladesh embassy in China.
Bangladesh exports shrimp and frozen fish worth about Tk4,500 crore annually. Shrimp is the most exported of these items. The next top exported item is crabs. In the last financial year, Bangladesh exported crabs and eels worth around Tk600 crore, most of which went to China.
Crab farming is engaged in for commercial purposes in Khulna, Barisal, Noakhali and Chattogram. Traders collect eels from different districts of the country and export them live.
Exporters said the presence of harmful substances in crabs and eels has been increasing as they are packed in a large amount together.
Fisheries and Animal Resources Secretary Raunak Mahmud said, "China's decision to halt imports of crabs and eels for the second time in a year due to harmful substances is unfortunate. It has tarnished the country's reputation."
"Exporters were already aware of the complexities of exporting crabs and eels to China. After that, it is undesirable to export crabs and eels with such harmful substances," he added.
Kazi Shams Afroz, director-general of the fisheries department, said, "The department's lab did not have the facility to conduct estradiol tests in October. So far it has not been possible to test the amount of estradiol in exported fish products. But now estradiol tests have begun. Therefore, it will be possible to export crabs and eels to China after testing."
Officials from the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock said that the General Administration of Customs of China has provided training on self-inspection and self-management to exporters and has organised workshops with them.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock held a meeting on 30 November with the five companies that have been selected for resuming exports of crabs and eels to China.
An inspection team from the ministry will ensure that the standards set by China are maintained. A standard operating procedure has also been drafted.
Sirajul Islam, owner of SR Traders, one of the five companies selected for crabs and eels export, said, "After the suspension of Chinese exports in October, the first eels were exported experimentally from our company in September. I exported 54,395 kg of eels through seven consignments, all of which passed the quality test."
He said the presence of chemicals in the eels collected from the northern parts of the country is low. Moreover, to maintain quality, a certain amount of products has to be exported in packets."
Delwar Hossain, owner of Araf International, said he exports live crabs only. "The crabs exported by my company never came back from abroad. We can export crabs in line with China's new rules and regulations."