There is enormous export potential for Bangladesh’s agricultural products, agricultural products and processed foods in overseas markets, but it remains largely untapped.
For example, if you browse the shelves of a super store in Malaysia, there’s a good chance you’ll find puffed rice or spicy chanachur, even with a “made in Bangladesh” label on it. Even in Dubai, you will get toasted cookies in supermarkets made by the Bangladeshi group Pran-RFL.
For now, that’s all local manufacturers can offer the Bengali diaspora abroad – spicy snacks or sweet cookies, not the main dishes.
Local food manufacturers said they have yet to reach European countries and the United States with rapidly changing processed foods and beverages through their strategy of “ethnic marketing” (Bengali marketing focused on the community which aims to satisfy the particular tastes and needs of the community), limited export basket, lack of international standards and other conformities.
“If we want to enter their market, we have to maintain their standards and conformities in the production units. It requires research and development, ”Kamruzzaman Kamal, director (Marketing) of the Pran-RFL group, told The Business Standard.
Currently, Bangladesh exports processed foods to 144 countries, with Bangladeshi agriculture and agri-food products destined for Bengali community markets in Europe. But the items are not allowed in European chain stores because manufacturers do not produce them by targeting foreign consumers.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau, exports of agricultural items and agricultural products exceeded $ 1 billion in fiscal year 2020-2021.
The government, manufacturers and trade organizations have taken a number of initiatives to stimulate the export of processed foods.
Md Iqtadul Hoque, general secretary of the Bangladesh Agricultural Processors Association, said local manufacturers were lagging behind in terms of technology and international standards.
Echoing Pran’s Kamal on the need for more research, he said Bangladeshi manufacturers should also focus on improving the quality of food.
A market of 4.8 billion dollars growing by 15%
The Ministry of Commerce recently conducted a study on the agro-food industry. The study found that the Bangladesh processed food market has experienced an annual growth of 15% over the past five years.
At present, the market size including domestic demand and export is $ 4.8 billion. According to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Foreign Investors, the market will reach $ 5.8 billion by 2030.
With a share of 32%, spices occupy the largest segment of the domestic processed food market. In addition, juices and drinks represent a 26% market share, while biscuits occupy 13%.
Sweets, chanachur, noodles, vermicelli, puffed rice, flattened rice, frozen snacks, jam and jelly together occupy 23% of the processed food market.
For export, dry foods represent 25% of the basket, spices 4.5%, vegetables 11%, fruits 0.04%, tea 0.3% and other items 58.6%.
Micro and small businesses contribute most of the manufacturing of processed foods, while conglomerates only contribute 3.4%.
Initiatives to boost exports
According to the Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the world population will reach 9.8 billion people by 2050, while the global demand for processed foods will increase by 60%.
Bangladesh certainly does not want to lose its export potential. The Bangladesh Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) recently signed an agreement with HSBC regarding market research.
The research is being conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), a UK-based consultancy firm.
It will look at the barriers for Bangladeshi processed foods in the UK market, how the barriers can be overcome, areas for improvement and recommendations on international standards and conformities.
After the UK, FBCCI chairman Jasim Uddin said the trade body would continue research for other markets as well.
In addition, the Ministry of Industry is working on the formulation of the “Agri-Food Industry Development Policy-2021” to provide various forms of assistance to new and old entrepreneurs in the industry.
According to ministry sources, government policy support for the industry aims to attract $ 5 billion in foreign investment for processed foods by 2026. The ministry is working on policy formulation during this year.