Fruit import rises 72pc in six years

Anisul Islam Noor

18 September, 2019 12:00 AM printer

The country’s fruit import doubled as its consumption rose in line with people’s purchasing power.     

Experts said with increasing spending capacity, people have become aware of their food habit, health and nutrition, and so they are trying to reduce health risk, bringing diversification to food intake.

According to Bangladesh bank, Tk20.3 billion was spent on the import of different fruits in FY 2018-19 which was Tk10.2 billion in FY2013-14.

Between FY 2014-15 and FY 2018-19, fruit imports soared 72 percent to 599,000 tonnes, according to the data compiled by the Plant Quarantine Wing (PQW) of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), and the central bank. The domestic consumption of fruits is increasing 5 percent every year. Orange, tangerine, apple and grape represented 85 percent of the fruit imports, according to DAE.  

The demand for both imported and locally grown fruits consumption is increasing in line with changing food habits, said Md Azhar Ali, director of PQW, which is responsible for regulating the import of plants or plant products to prevent the entry of pests into the country.

“Previously, people were mainly buying fruits when visiting patients. Now, it is quite common to see a bowl of fruit on most dining tables. Health consciousness is rising along with rising income,” he said.

Shamsun Nahar, chief dietician of BIRDEM, told daily sun that health consciousness is rising along with rising income, and many people contact them for healthy diet.        The growing trend of eating fruits and reducing carbohydrate intake is a good sign to build healthy generation, she added. 

Sirajul Islam, general secretary of Bangladesh Fresh Fruits Importers Association, said the trend of eating fruits has increased more than ever.

Bangladesh’s domestic production of fruit is too insignificant to meet the demand, and people are consuming more fruits now than in the past, he said, adding that local production of fruit can meet only 30 percent of the annual demand.

Besides, only a certain selection of fruits like mango, jackfruit, banana, green coconut, guava, pineapple, watermelon and papaya are produced in the country.

Citrus fruits like tangerine and orange are grown in Sylhet region and some parts of hill tracts, according to DAE officials.

In FY 2016-17, 3,000 tonnes of fruits were locally produced, according to the data from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.

“We do not have any production of apple, pomegranate and pear,” Sirajul Islam said, adding that production of non-traditional fruits are on the rise for expanding commercial cultivation.

Production of locally grown fruits has soared but the demand for foreign fruits has increased owing to reluctance among many to consume native fruits, said Azhar Ali.

Many people prefer foreign fruits even though the nutrition value of native fruits is not less than the imported ones, he said. “We need to change this mindset.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, foreign fruits are being cultivated in the country along with new varieties of mango, malta, orange, dragon fruit.

From September to January people depend on foreign fruits, and now the supply of domestic fruits is increasing at this time and People are becoming interested in fresh and chemical-free fruits.

According to the Department of Agriculture Extension, in the last five years, fruit production in the country has increased to 2.1 million kg. Total domestic fruits production stood 1.21 crore kg in FY 2018-19. Foreign fruit imports have not decreased despite the increase in domestic fruit production.  According to Bangladesh Bank data, Bangladesh imported different types of fruits from 46 countries in the world. Among the fruits, orange, tangerine, date, pear, apple and grape pears, malta, cherries, pineapple, plum, mango, some unfamiliar fruits such as baby mandarin, palm, nectarine, queer, sweet Milan, avocado are the ones.

A maximum amount of fruits are imported from India, China, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, France, USA, Bhutan, Egypt and South Africa.