May 4, 2009

Lack of testing facilities may hinder Bangladesh's shrimp exports

Bangladesh's shrimp exports may face difficulties in its peak season from June to October this year due to the lack of proper testing facilities.


Bangladesh needs two more testing laboratories in addition to the present one to comply with international requirements and to boost exports, according to government officials and shrimp exporters.


The government had pledged a financial package for the frozen food exporters on April 19, raising cash incentives to 12.5 percent from 10 percent, but shrimp exports could still be compromised if the laboratories are not established.


Officials of the Department of Fisheries responsible for buying testing machines for laboratories since early 2002 bought a low quality testing machine by BDT4.5 crore, according to sources.


Since then, the DoF and the Fisheries Ministry had not taken any initiative to purchase the testing machines, the sources said.


The only running testing machine that is running was bought by the Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association (BFFEA) to comply with EU rules, as the EU would ban imports of Bangladeshi shrimps if Bangladesh lacks facilities to identify bacteria in shrimps in the absence of modern laboratories. 


DoF Director General Md. Rafiqul Islam said the purchasing of two other testing machines is being processed but it is unknown when the process will be completed. One of the machines can detect pesticide contents in fish.


It will take at least six to eight months to set up a laboratory, according to BFFEA's former president Kazi Belayet Hossain.


Hossain said the world market is shrinking, prices are falling sharply and shrimp exporters have to wait over three weeks for quality testing, while testing for competitors takes only two to three days.


Many exporters had to cancel export orders or even ignore foreign buyers during the peak period due to time-consuming testing facilities, said Hossain.