Agriculture Emerging Issue
Fresh Produce and AgroProcessing in Bangladesh :
IntroductionAgriculture in Bangladesh was once mainly subsistence based. This is no longer true. Recent estimates suggest that proportions of farm produce is marketed (Table 1). While post-harvest distress sales still exist, recent farm level studies indicate that such incidents are only marginal in explaining the extent to which is currently practiced.
Table 1: Proportions of Agricultural
Output Marketed by Farm Households,
Fruit and Vegetables
Merchandising of Fresh Fruits, Vegetables and PotatoesMost of the local production of vegetables and fruits is directed to the domestic market. Only in the 1980s the prospects of developing export markets emerged. Most of the country's exports are to the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates and targeted to Bangladeshis residing in these countries. Domestically, the urban markets are the main consumers.
Between 1981/82 and 1997/98, vegetable exports increased twenty folds. However, substantial declines have been recorded in 1998-99 (Tables 1). The flood in 1998 is the major factor behind such declines. Production, especially that of fruits, was also adversely affected by the floods.
As of 1989, about 119 exporters of fruits and vegetables had registered with the Export Promotion Bureau. However, only a few are currently in business. Export transactions are not executed through letters of credit negotiated at sight. Payments are remitted after clearance of goods from the port of entry by importers through telegraphic money transfers. Thus, exposure to high risk due to rejections and payment default is involved. Such payment defaults may partly explain the decline in vegetable exports from Bangladesh. In the absence of banking institutions bearing such risks, participation in the export market has largely been restricted to those having close relations with importers. Improved financial services are necessary to facilitate increased export of agricultural produce from Bangladesh.
In cases of both domestic and export marketing, produce is generally packed at the farm level in bamboo baskets of 10-30 kg each or in jute bags of 30-50 kg. Lack of modern marketing infrastructure, 20-4- percent of harvested produce often does not reach the consumers. Water transport is primary means of carrying the produce to urban markets. However, with development of road transportation system, more and more of the produce are being transported by trucks and vans.
In case of exports, produce is delivered to the exporters' "warehouse" or "packing house", which in many cases is a small room in a housing unit. Under the supervision of exporter's agents, the produces are sorted, graded and packed. These fresh vegetables and fruits are exported by air cargo.
Bangladesh are generally considered to be self-sufficient in potato production. However, the production instability induced by unexpected weather changes causes periodical scarcity and surplus. This alters trade potentials. Some potato exports were recorded in second half of the 1980s; however, prospects of potato production in the near future are expected to depend exclusively on the domestic market. The Agrobased Industries and Technology Development Project (ATDP) of the Ministry of Agriculture motivated entrepreneurs to export potato on a commercial basis. In 1999, 126,000 kg of potatoes were exported to Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia on a commercial basis. In 2000 another 156,000 kg of potatoes were exported to Singapore.
Table 1: Export of Vegetables and
Marketing margins for most vegetables and potatoes (fresh and chilled) are found to be significantly higher than for other agricultural produce. The lack of infrastructure, such as caused by a ban on new investments in cold storage, and lack of processing industries is important causes. The same factors contribute to unstable market condition, and farmers producing vegetables, fruits and potatoes are often faced with substantial climatic and market risks.
Among prospective horticultural products, cut flowers (rajani gandha) and mushrooms, two non-traditional items, need special mentioning. The market for cut flowers is growing rapidly in urban areas, and this has induced large-scale production of cut flowers in areas around Dhaka. Scientific mushroom production in Bangladesh started in the late 1970s after the arrival of the volunteers from Japan Overseas Co-operative Volunteers. Commercial production of spawn packets of oyster mushroom was started from 1989. Over the time, production had increased from one MT in 1989/90 to five MT in 1991/92. There is active interest among local industrialists in commercially produced mushrooms with a view to processing mushrooms for export. Mushrooms do not form part of the regular diet. Currently, mushrooms produced on farms are locally marketed, mostly in hotels housing foreigners, Chinese restaurants, and markets in close vicinity to the residence of foreigners. One agro-processing company also exported mushrooms to European markets.
Processing of Fruits, vegetables and PotatoesProducts currently obtained from processed fruits and vegetables are jam, sauce, jelly, pickles, and fruit juice/drink. Other than tomato sauce and paste and packing of peas (motor shuuti) in preservatives, vegetables processing are not significant. In 1986, only 12 fruit and vegetables processing industries were in operation in Bangladesh. An Agriculture sector team survey indicates that the number of processing enterprises has increased to 53 in 1991; most of these are located in Dhaka. According to Bangladesh Standard Testing Institute, this number has increased to 1,000 in 2000. But there are 62 registered fruit and vegetable processing units with Bangladesh Agroprocessors Association (BAPA).
Fruits and vegetable processing involves such activities as pre-cooling, washing, grading, treating, storage, dehydration, pickling, peeling, slicing, crushing, extraction, blanching, sterilizing, filling, scaling and sealing containers. In most cases, operations are done manually. About 75 percent of the permanent and casual workers in processing units are women. Average capacity utilization of food processors during 1983-86 was only about 30 percent. The processing enterprises acquire raw materials mainly from the nearest local market. Vertical integration of the industry is yet to be emerged.
About 72 percent of the vegetables are grown in winter. And the balance is produced in the summer. Such a high degree of seasonally in supply of fruits and vegetables necessitates proper storage facilities. However, none of the enterprise, except the Chittagong Mukti Joddha Juice Plant, has its own cold storage facility. Leasing other cold storage facilities implies competing for space with such items as potatoes and incurring higher costs in storage. There are currently 280 cold storage units in Bangladesh with highest concentration in the greater Dhaka district. The storage capacity is 1.31 million metric tons (MT). Except for BADC's 10 cold storage units having capacity of 7,500 MT, all of the units are privately owned.
Current processing enterprises are not large enough to maintain fleets of specialized vehicles for transport of raw materials. Lack of professionalism in transport services and delays in ferry crossing cause uncertainty in assuring quick delivery of perishable items. Failures in the transport sector also cause unanticipated decline in farm prices without simultaneous transfer of benefits to end consumers, causing negative impacts on producers over the long-term information on the extent of potato processing is absent. Many food-processing enterprises engage in processing marketing potato chips. The technology of potato processing may be improved to enable quality production, and export of processed items in the future may be feasible. Recently one factory with the assistance of ATDP has started producing frozen french fries for the first time in Bangladesh.
Marketing and processing of OilseedsAlmost all of the oilseeds produced in Bangladesh are processed to obtain edible oil and oil cakes. The latter is normally considered a byproduct and is used for fertilizing land and also for animal feed.
Most oil mills in the country are small electrically operated units using the same principle as ghanis, but using mechanical devices. There are only three large-scale solvent oil-extraction factories in Bangladesh with potential use of about 50 MT of seed per day. One is currently extracting oil from rice bran (Rupan Company). At present, none of the mills have the technology to extract oil from soybeans. The existing refineries neutralize, bleach, deodorize, refine and hydrogenate depending on the state of raw materials and intended quality of finished products.
Local production of oilseeds meets only 50 percent of the total requirement of the ghanis and oil mills. The government has therefore allowed importation of mustard and rapeseed (import tax and excise duties are fixed at 20 percent and 6 percent respectively). Current import liberalization policy may, however, adversely affect the local refineries. It is alleged that import of palm oil at half the price of soybean oil, is a potential threat to the refineries.
Soybean has uses other than for oil extraction. Initial experimentation suggests that there are much potential in production and marketing of soybean based products in Bangladesh. The marketable products are soybean grains and snacks items such as chanachur, biscuit, and Soya milk. In Dhaka, The Bangladesh Soya Protein Project produces soybean biscuit, bread and Soya milk for supply to Ministry of Relief, Shishu (children's) Hospital and for (targeted) school students
Marketing and Processing of Food grains and Pulses
Rice production of to about 19 million MT in a recent year. More than 50 of total rice in Bangladesh are grown in six former districts: Mymensingh, Keshoreganj, Tangail, Rangpur, Sylhet, Dhaka, Comilla and Jessore (Table 6). Nawabganj, Dinajpur and Sherpur areas are famous for production of fine and aromatic rice that have export markets. Rice mills of various capacities have grown throughout the country. The indigenous 'dheki' method of rice husking has been largely replaced by mechanized rice milling. However, mechanized rice milling in Bangladesh is itself a century old technology -- known as the engel-berg huller system.
The extent of processing and storage of paddy depend on locations: (1) the farm for extended personal consumption, (2) the village where producers and traders interact and (3) urban areas where storage facilities set up by public agencies are found.
There are 100,405 (100,000 engel-berg, 38 Chinese automatic and 25 large automatic) rice mills of different sizes and categories spread throughout the country. The engel-berg rice milling system is defective. About 20,000 engel-berg type rice mills are being established every year, These rice mini-mills have widely decentralized the rice milling industry. Over the years, some technological improvements have been introduced, including (1) parboiling the paddy to conserve its vitamins, hardens the grains and reduce the proportion of broken rice (2) mechanical drying of paddy, (3) use of rubber roller Sheller to minimizes grain breakage, (4) utilization of husks as fuel for broilers and dryers and as raw materials for products such as cement and (5) evolution of mechanisms to separate rice bran from husks to extract oil from rice bran. Rice bran is also used as good feed for fish and poultry. According to one estimate, about two million MT of rice bran (at 10 percent of the weight clean rice) could be produced from about 20 million MT of clean rice in Bangladesh annually. Most of it is used as fuel for cooking purposes and/or in boilers (mixed with husks). Through slight modification in the existing engel-berg system, 200,000 MT of quality edible oil could be produced from rice bran. The rice oil could meet about 50 percent of total consumption. According to one estimate, 400 MT of rice bran oils are produced in the country. Rice bran oil is good quality edible oil. Locally produced oilcan hardly meet 30 percent of the country's total requirement. The country spends over Tk 10,000 million every year to meet import bills of edible oils. Rice bran oil produced from rice mills could substitute for a huge quantity of the imported edible oil every year.
Besides extracting oil from rice bran, there exists tremendous scope to export fine quality rice from Bangladesh to the European Union and USA markets. However, this will need a comprehensive collaborative approach involving producers, millers, exporters and financial institutions. A number of incentive packages would be necessary to boost exportation of fine quality rice on a consumption basis with the neighboring countries.
Table 2: Rice Processing Devices in
Unlike rice, wheat is primarily an imported commodity. Import volumes have, however, been on the decline during the recent past, 8.01 million MT in 1994-95 and 1.55 million MT in 1997-98. Until 1991-92, commercial and aid-financed wheat imports were under public sector control. Other than limited imports by flourmills, the private sector has yet to play a major role in wheat imports.
As for wheat-based products, one important processing sector includes the bread, biscuit and bakery enterprises. The growth in the number of such enterprises has possibly surpassed that in all other in the recent past. The 1988 Directory of Selected Industries reported that of 68 bakery enterprises, 14 were approved in 1989 and 18 in 1990. This section has also attracted some degree of foreign investment. Such growth may be seen as a consequence of the peace of urbanization in the country, and it is believed that private sector initiatives will be able to develop new product lines and thereby enhance the demand for wheat. Wheat is also widely used for poultry feed, both as whole grain and as wheat bran. Bangladesh's production of pulses is not adequate to meet the country's total need. This has especially been so since the wide expansion in Boro area that replaced pulse cultivation. During the period of restricted of import policy, informal imports from India filled the demand gap. Since import liberalization, pulses are imported by the private sector through formal channels.
PulsesBangladesh produces more than 0.50 million MT of pulses every year. Lentil (masur) occupies about 31 percent of all pulses grown in the country (Table 8-11). Gram (Chola) occupies the second position with 12 percent of total production. Jessore, Faridpur, Kushtia, Pabna and Rajshahi together produce about one fourth of total production (0.164 million). These areas are also familiar for production of these pulse crops. Production of pulses show static or decline position over the last several years. About 15 percent of total pulses produced in the country are damaged with post-harvest losses occurring due to improper handling, storing and milling operations.
Demand for pulses has increased with our increase in population. Bangladesh imports about 75,000 MT of pulses every year, at a huge foreign currency cost -- equivalent to Tk 960 million on average. Pulses crushing mills have been established around the main production zones. About 3,000 pulses crushing mills, of Jessore, Khulna, Faridpur and Satkhira areas, have been reported to close due to lack of pulses. Man Many pulses mills have been converted into other food processing mills. Many pulse mills have shifted to border where pulses are smuggled through illegal means. The country's pulse mills are in critical condition due to a lack of supply of raw materials, lack of improved technology and working capital to run the mills.
The Bangladesh Government has established a Pulses Crop Production Task Force with an objective of increasing pulse production through an integrated approach, extension and credit support.
Marketing and processing of SpicesTrading of dry chili, turmeric, coriander, ginger and other spices is exclusively in the private sector. Of late, markets for dry, ground spices have opened up in the urban areas. A source at the Department of Agricultural Marketing suggests that there are now ten enterprises engaged in processing of spices, nine of which are in Dhaka and on in Chittagong. It is however believed that there may be many more home-based processing units.
The absence of quality control in spices processing is a major hindrance in widening the market for processed products. Many urban customers still resort to buying raw produce, drying them at home and milling them for prolonged use. It is expected that ensuring better quality of products in the market is a key to developing the market for processed spices.
Marketing and processing of Traditional Cash CropsJute, sugarcane and tobacco are the traditional cash crops produce by Bangladesh farmers. Jute processing begins at the farm level where harvested jute is rotted by dipping it in water for several days prior to manually separating the fiber from the sticks. With increasing demand for land and greater incentives for fish cultivation, availability of water for such processing is limited. No new technology to separate fiber from the stalks has been made available to farmers.
The fiber, commonly known as raw jute, had once been a major source of export earnings for Bangladesh. However, the jute industry in Bangladesh, both public (about 50 percent of the mills) and private is currently facing difficulties. There has been severe erosion of market in the international jute goods market. Moreover, surplus labor in this sector is identified by many as a major hindrance to increased competitiveness. During 1990-91 and 1991-92, 13,500 employees in the public sector jute mills have been released under a voluntary Retirement Program. The government plans to close nine public sector jute mills and downsize two large public mills.
Most of the country's sugarcane is used for milling. Local sugar mills use about 30 percent, and the rest used in the local gur/molasses industry. There are 16 sugar mills in the country, all of which are in the public sector. There is apparently a huge inventory of sugar, which is difficult to dispose of, given the competition from cheaper Indian sugar. The regulations to force farmers to produce sugarcane and supply it to the public sector mills are viewed as a hindrance in making the market more competitive.
In contrast to sugar, gur/molasses production is more profitable. This is carried out in temporary premises in rural areas. The technology involves crushers there are now locally produced by the private sector. Most of the molasses is exported.
Homestead Production and ProcessingThere is an estimated 15 million homesteads in Bangladesh, of which two million are in urban areas. Of various crop production activities carried out in homesteads, vegetable gardening is the most prominent. About 15 percent of the homestead include vegetable gardens and a relatively greater percentage of the landless (33percent) use their homestead activities. Besides, homestead forests supply a major proportion of fruit, fuel, timber and fodder. Homestead trees meet 65-70 percent of timber and about 90 percent of the fuel wood and bamboo needs of the country.
Homestead also provide space for storage seeds, processing of field crops (e.g. threshing, winnowing, parboiling etc.) storage of farm produce, and various food processing activities. The latter are reported to have increased substantially with the increase Grameen Bank and NGO participation in lending operations. Economic activities are also carried out in household are participating in rearing poultry as a commercial venture.
Women who find it convenient to mix income-generating activities with other household activities carry out most of the homestead activities in Bangladesh (both urban and rural). Moreover, because of financial needs, the poor are relatively more active participants in homestead economic activities. Thus any attempt to raise productivity of homestead-based economic activities will ultimately benefit the poor and the women in Bangladesh
Marketing and processing of MilkMilk is processed on a commercial scale for production of pasteurized milk that is sold in sealed packets. There are only a few milk-processing plants in the country. Milk Vitae, Savar Dairy, Aftab Dairy and the recently established Arong milk processing plant of BRAC are a few examples of successful milk processing plants. The milk processing plants collect milk from distant areas by refrigerated vans and process milk in processing centers. There is ample scope to increase milk production in the country and simultaneously establish more processing plants.
Milk processing for preparation of ghee and yogurt are traditional activities in rural Bangladesh. However, new milk processing plants are coming up with ventures to link producers and processors with markets. Milk produced in the remote areas sometimes face gluts leading to lower prices - while city dwellers find fresh milk dear. This is due to poor transportation facilities and lack of local milk processing and preservation facilities. Bangladesh spends a large amount of foreign exchange each year to import milk powder and milk-based products and by-products including much needed baby foods. There exists ample scope in Bangladesh to produce enough milk for processing and to use as a basic ingredient for production of locally made baby foods by local companies or in collaboration with multinational companies. Milk products, by-products and baby foods could even be exported.
Marketing and Processing of ShrimpAccording to the World Shrimp Farming Report 1995, Bangladesh ranked 7th in shrimp production by aquaculture: Thailand (220,000 MT), Ecuador (100,000 MT), Indonesia (80,000 MT), China (70,000 MT), Vietnam (50,000 MT) and Bangladesh (30,000 MT). The share of Bangladesh farmed shrimps constituted 4.21 percent of the total world production of farmed shrimps.
Shrimp and Prawns have been playing an important role in the economy of Bangladesh. In the coastal areas of Satkhira and Khulna districts, people use to make dykes or embankments along the banks of estuarine rivers and allow brackish waters carrying shrimp fry or juveniles to enter wherein the shrimp would grow under natural conditions without any care, supplementary feed or stocking. As a result, production output has always been very poor. Shrimp production in the area rotated with paddy cultivation in a systematic manner.
Modernization of shrimp culture started in Bangladesh during 1980s. The land under inland shrimp culture increased from 51,812 ha in 1983-84 to 108,280 ha in 1993-94. Production of farmed shrimp and prawns also increased from 4,286 MT to 44,954 MT during the same period. The average production/ha rose from 85 kg in 1983-84 to 326 kg in 1996-97.
With the introduction of coastal shrimp
aquaculture and deep sea fishing trawlers in the country shrimp catches
have been steadily increasing during the last 15 years. In 1983-84, total
shrimp production was 57,656 MT that has increased to 118,734 MT in
1996-97 - an increase of about 206 percent. Shrimp and prawns constituted
about nine percent of the total fishery production of 1,306,739 MT in
1996-97. Trends of production of all types of shrimp and prawn are shown
in Table 39. Table contains statistics on year-wise area and production of
shrimp with yields. As seen from the Table, yield increased from 85 kg/ha
in 1983-84 to 325 kg/ha in 1996-97. Though apparently significant, the
yield of shrimp in Bangladesh is one of the lowest in Asia and the region.
All these developments were possible due to technological improvements for production of shrimp fry through hatcheries and feed production. Bangladesh is yet far behind in artificial propagation of shrimp, as a result of which it is still dependent on collection of wild fry from the coastal estuaries. The Government of Bangladesh had taken up a few projects for the establishment of hatcheries for P. mondon and M. resnbergii. These hatcheries have recently gone into production. Private hatcheries are already in production in Cox's Bazar and Khulna regions, have already been approved by the government and are now at the final stage of implementation. All these projects, if implemented properly, may help shrimp production improve substantially. Production potential for cultured shrimp and prawn is given in Table 41. According to an estimate, the potential for coastal shrimp production is about 130,000 MT to 160,000 MT live weight - equivalent to 860 million to 1,030 million US dollars annually.
Bangladesh has developed very impressive seafood processing and freezing industry over the last 25 years. There were only nine processing plants in the country with a total freezing capacity of 58 MT daily in 1971. From 1972 to 1976, only four plants with a combined capacity of 44 MT were commissioned. The trend in installation of freezing plants has increased since 1977 and reached its climax during 1986-89 period when 39 plants were commissioned in a three years period. During 1992 to 1997, another 26 were commissioned with freezing capacity of 507 MT/day. Thus, by 1997, there were 123 freezing plants with installed capacity of 1,187 MT of which 698 MT was plate freezing, 393 MT was blast freezing and 96 MT was IQF products. The utilization capacity of the fish freezing plants is very low due to lack of raw materials and the unwarranted growth of the industry.
Bangladesh frozen food processing is mainly dependent on traditional block freezing of shrimp and prawns. More than 95 percent of its export come from frozen primary products. Only 10 plants have entered into value-added products in the form of IQF, semi-cooked and cooked products.
Value-additions in seafoods is the current requirement of developed nations like Japan, USA and Canada. Developing nations like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Eastern European nations have also developed interest in the consumption of value-added seafoods.
Value addition in the frozen foods sector is quite a new development in Bangladesh. It will be considered as a right step to increase export value of the frozen food sector. Only five processing plants exported about 1,000 MT of value added processed foods in 1997-98. The share value added products to frozen food exports was about 4.65 percent during that year.
Frozen FoodsExports of frozen foods (mainly shrimp) and other fishery products have been considered a non-conventional sector. In 192-73, the export earnings from this sector was around $ 3.06 USD million.
It rose to 37.04 million in 1979-80. In
1996-97, the all time highest foreign exchange from this sector was earned
with US$ 320 million. Export performance for the last six years were as
Export of the frozen foods sector
contributed almost eight percent to national exports. The contribution
over the last five years is shown below:
Share of Frozen Foods in Total Fishery
Investment Opportunities in the Agroprocessing IndustryCensus of Manufacturing Industries (CMI) 1991-92 indicates that food and related processing industries represent about 22 percent of total industries in the country. In terms of value addition, the food processing industries contributes about Tk 79,249 million to the national economy. Over 1.3 million persons are engaged in this sector as of the 1991-92 report. The present figures should have increased significantly. There exists ample opportunity for investment in the agroprocessing sector. Data collected through pre-structured questionnaires from different public sector and private banks -- indicate that almost all banks invested a part of their total funds in the agrpprocessing sector. However, the amount varies from bank to bank. From the limited information collected, it is seen that Bangladesh Krishi Bank and Janata Bank have greater involvement in investment from the state owned banking sector and BASIC bank and OFIC from private sector banks.
The present investment scenario for agroprocessing is steadily. However, this sector as with others, is not free from problems.
Need to Enhance Agroprocessing Industries in Bangladesh
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