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Pointed gourd shipment to EU resumes

Yasir Wardad | April 03, 2018 00:00:00

Shipment of pointed gourd has resumed to European Union (EU) market after two and a half years which the sector insiders see as a big boost for diversifying the country's export basket.

Fourteen exporters started exporting pointed gourd to the EU market on Saturday after collecting the nutritious vegetable from 'contract' farmers in Jessore.

In January 2016, the EU imposed a ban on import of five vegetable commodities from Bangladesh considering those as 'critical' according to their quarantine requirement. Pointed gourd was one of the items, according to the Bangladesh Fruits Vegetable and Allied Products Exporters Association (BFVAPEA).

The recent shipment of pointed gourd was possible with the technical help of Solidaridad Network Asia, a Dutch organisation.

Solidaridad worked with 316 farmers in five areas in Jessore to produce pest-free and safe pointed gourds along with snake gourds, bottle gourds, papaya and other crops, said senior manager (supply chain & business development) of Solidaridad, Bangladesh Mohammad Moziball Hoque.

He said together with Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) and the BVFAPEA, Solidaridad facilitated to frame the five export clusters through its Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Linkages (SaFaL) project.

He said the export cluster concept was developed by the organisation to strengthen the zoning concept, crop cycle management, pest and disease control, farmers learning and capacity building on Good Agriculture Practices (GAP).

It also worked on product quality, traceability, phytosanitary requirements and post-harvest management practices to produce high quality gourds to comply with international market standards, he said.

Md Sharifur Rahman Shaurav, proprietor of Shohan Enterprise and one of the leading vegetable exporters of the country, said they intensively worked for the project for the last two years.

He said farmers in Jessore Sadar and Manirampur upazilas can now grow other vegetables following the GAP method. These areas have emerged as good vegetable source for the businesses, he said.

He said the local traders have also been exporting another five vegetables to the EU market for the last months after the Plant Quarantine Wing removed its self-imposed ban.

"We are also now exporting snake gourds, ladies finger, ridge gourds, green amaranth (pui shak or bassela elba) and jute plant (paat shak) to EU," he said.

Jahurul Islam, proprietor of Islam Enterprise, another pointed gourd exporter, said two tonnes of the item are being exported by the trader per day now.

He said the export will continue for the next seven and a half months and the total shipments can stand at 500 tonnes, worth Tk 150 million.

He said export of pointed gourd from Bogra is likely to start within a few months as farmers in the northern district too are producing the crop following GAP method.

Bangladesh produces nearly 0.1 million tonnes of pointed gourd annually of which 2,000 tonnes were exported in the 2015-16 financial year, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).

The country's vegetables export dropped to $80 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year (FY17), compared to $104 million in FY16, EPB data showed.

Secretary of BFVAPEA Mohammad Mansur told the FE that the EU is opening up its market for Bangladeshi vegetables, apart from the countries in the Middle East.

He said that the opening up of EU market may help regain Bangladesh' hard currency income from vegetable shipment which has been showing a downtrend since 2014.

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