Making shrimp exports secure

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
24 October 2007, at 1:00am

BANGLADESH - The export-oriented frozen food sector, which comprise mainly shrimp, has been emerging as the second most important export item in Bangladesh after readymade garment.

Considering its future potential as an item of value, it is often described as 'white gold' from Bangladesh. The export of shrimp has huge prospects. The country earns annually about US$ 300 million from shrimp exports when various expert level studies have credibly projected that there exists the potential to increase its exports fivefold to US$1.5 billion within some years from now provided the on going projects to develop capacities in this sector are pushed to completion at an early date.

The export of shrimps is facing a number of challenges. The future of this industry depends on the entrepreneurs quickly realising what they need to do to retain the export markets and expand their market share. The European Union (EU) countries are by far the biggest importers of shrimp from Bangladesh followed by Japan.

But incidents were noted about exporters not meeting quality requirements that led to even return of consignments of exported shrimps from EU countries. Charges were leveled against the exporters for adopting foul methods to increase weight and for raising shrimp amid harmful chemicals which could be detrimental to human health. In 1997, the EU slapped a ban on export of shrimp from Bangladesh. The ban was withdrawn in 1998 on conditions that the exporters would take steps to ensure product quality by improving testing standards in laboratories with the installation of appropriate equipment.

While the ban has had considerable effects in shaking up the exporters and creating the incentives among them to set up the demanded facilities and subject their products to inspection, the ambit of such testing and standardisation are probably not yet foolproof. Thus, a big consignment of shrimp was returned from Egypt recently.

A team from the EU is now visiting Bangladesh to have field level experience on how compliant the exporters have become in relation to EU regulations. The exporters understandably need to take this visit from the EU team most seriously because at stake is their present regular export to the EU countries and also the aspired growth in export activity to these countries.

Source: TheNewNation