Zarif Mahmud: A six-year ban has been lifted on betel exports. Bangladesh has started exporting to Europe again from May 26 last year. On the same day, the Minister of Agriculture Abdur Razzak inaugurated the program titled ‘Export of safe and quality betel to Europe’ by exporting one ton of betel leaf.
Eight months have passed since then. But good days have not returned to export. Before the ban, about 11,000 tons of betel leaf was exported annually, but in the last eight months, less than 100 tons was exported.
Exporters say the largest market for betel leaf exports is the European Union (EU). Earlier, about 90 per cent of exports went to the UK, an EU ally. Now the UK has split with the EU (Brexit). For this reason, even though the EU lifted the embargo, the United Kingdom did not take it into account. They are not drinking from Bangladesh leaves yet.
The United Kingdom has said it will raise the issue in parliament. After that he will take drink from Bangladesh with new rules and regulations. However, it is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
The exporters also said that after the lifting of the embargo, all that was consumed in the EU was in France. That market is very small. Besides, betel is being exported to several countries in the Middle East and Malaysia. But that is very insignificant compared to the overall export of the previous period.
Mohammad Mansoor, general secretary of the Bangladesh Fruits Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters Association (BFVAPEA), told that the biggest beverage market was London (UK). Besides Bangladesh, there are a lot of people from India and Pakistan. They drink and eat. We will not get any benefit from lifting the ban if we can’t give drink in that market.
He said London had informed them in January that the matter would be raised in their parliament, after which a decision would be made. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
How ban came about
The United Kingdom has tested imported beers from different countries in the wake of a woman’s illness. The EU then banned the export of betel from Bangladesh in February 2014 due to the presence of harmful salmonella bacteria in betel.
Since then, the country has been completely bacteria-free in 2019, but the EU has gradually increased the conditions and sanctions. The ban was lifted last February on the condition that the last alliance be followed by good agricultural practices (GAP), Good Hygiene Practices (GHP), and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) up to shipment, including the production of bacteria-free beers. In addition, Salmonella bacteria-free certification is now required from internationally accredited laboratories for export.
The EU alliance and the United Kingdom have also tested a few points after 2019, which were completely bactericidal.
What Bangladesh done
From 2016 to 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Commerce and the BFVAPEA took several steps against the condition of lifting the ban. First, Bangladesh selects betel cultivation areas and conducts bacterial-free contract farming, program implementation in the light of good agricultural practices, monitoring, traceability or identification, testing of betel samples.
BFVAPEA advisor agronomist Manjurul Islam, who took part in the event, told that subsequent research had shown that Salmonella in Pan was an animal-borne disease, which was transmitted through water, livestock and humans in the damp environment. As a result, it has been possible to get rid of these bacteria easily by using ground water in all fields, animal and bird free waste, hygiene of all involved from cultivation to packaging and using chlorine water.
In addition, selection and training of farmers, training of exporters’ representatives, regular testing of soil and water in drinking lands, safe and pest-free production of betel for export market are also underway. As a result, the bacteria was not found in the drink after 2019.
Now case with exports
Prior to the ban, Bangladesh exported 11,340 tonnes of betel in the 2013-14 fiscal year. Before that, exports were even higher.
In the 2011-12 financial year, 19,411 tons of betel was exported from Bangladesh with a financial value of more than $50 million.
Meanwhile, in the year following the ban, the export (2015-16) came down to 2,240 tons. After that the export did not return to the house of thousands, it went down to the house of the century. In the following year (2016-17) 120 tons, in the following year 124 tons, then 140 tons and in the last financial year 120 tons of betel were exported. BFVAPEA estimates that exports have risen to 80-90 tons in the last eight months since the ban was lifted.
Effect of drinking on vegetable export Mohammad Mansoor said, “We are not able to drink in London, so it is affecting the export of vegetables.” In that country, our buyers also want to drink with different vegetables. When we can’t afford it, we don’t want to take other vegetables sometimes. Later they took vegetables including betel leaves from India.
It is known that the products of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are similar in the world market of betel and vegetables. India is ahead in terms of drinking, followed by Bangladesh. The destination of export products of these three countries is almost the same. But they are getting that opportunity as there is no ban on drinking in India. Foreign buyers are buying more products from them as they are able to supply drinks as per demand. Despite the potential, Bangladeshi exporters are lagging behind.
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