Frozen Foods industry glows
DHAKA, APR 15: Export oriented frozen fish and shrimp exporters have started to revive its lost glory from the negative growth of last two years. They are taking advantage of the price hike in the post-recession global economy followed by self-imposed ban withdrawal on shrimp exports. According to the recent export-data revealed by the ministry of commerce, the country’s frozen food exporters earned US$471 million in the first nine months of the current fiscal year (2010-11), exceeding predetermined export target for the period by an impressive 45 per cent.
The period’s (July-March) export earning was 57 per cent higher than the earning of $299 million, recorded in the corresponding period of its previous fiscal year, according to the data released by the state-run Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).
“We received good price offer for our products and that helped exports to increase in terms of value,” Khan Habibur Rahman, senior executive director of Lockpur Group, said.
In FY 2009-10, frozen foods worth $445 million was exported to European and American markets. The frozen fish and shrimp exporting industry is seeing a revival from the past two years’ losses mainly due to a rise in prices because of the ongoing demand for seafood in the global market, followed by the withdrawal of restrictions, the country’s leading shrimp exporters explained. “Prices went up in the USA and this later caused a spike in prices in the European market,” Mr Rahman said. He termed it as ‘good sign’ and said the higher prices will encourage farmers to grow more shrimps. He also expected that a rise in production would help the sector heal the wounds.
With the introduction of antibiotic testing in 2004, Bangladeshi frozen food consignments received a significant number of rejections from the US and the EU and Japan due to the presence of nitrofuran in food items. Nitrofuran is an antibody, used to inhibit bacterial growth in food animal. Bangladesh Government and the department of food meticulously attempted to address this issue by banning nitrofuran use in 2008 but more rejections occurred in 2009. Out of desperation, the Bangladeshi shrimp industry voluntarily decided to impose a suspension on one kind of freshwater prawn exports to the EU market in order to evaluate and address this issue.
As a result, export earnings from frozen foods, including shrimps, fell 15 per cent to $454 million in 2008-09 from $534 million in its previous fiscal year. Global recession in the next fiscal year and natural disaster at Bangladesh coast made the situation even worse for Bangladeshi frozen food growers and exporters.
“Fresh consignments of nitrofuran-free shrimps have already started reaching the EU market,” a senior Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association (BFFEA) official told The Independent.
The ban was lifted after the BFFEA confirmed that shrimps produced in Bangladesh no longer contained nitrofuran, he said. “Its use has been banned completely and the industry will be monitored to ensure that the drug is no longer used by farmers in fish feed to fatten the freshwater prawn,” the official said. The EU imports shrimps, mostly white-water prawns, worth $250 million annually from Bangladesh.
Freshwater prawns are 25 per cent of the total shrimp exports. The EU consumes some 50 per cent of the total and the rest go to the United States, Japan and west Asian countries.
Frozen seafood is Bangladesh’s third largest export after garments and jute. Bangladesh government has set its target to export frozen foods worth $450 million for the fiscal year 2010-11. Frozen fish, the prime frozen food item has earned $355 million within the last nine months (July-March) period of the current fiscal year, posted a 40 per cent growth than its target $254 million for the period.
In fact, the exporters of the particular commodity have already crossed its export earning of FY 2009-10 at $348 million, EPB compiled data revealed.