Bangladesh has become the third largest importer of apples in the world thanks to the rising purchasing capacity and growing health consciousness among the country’s people.
Bangladesh imported 271,000 tonnes of apples in fiscal year 2019-20, the third highest worldwide following Russia and the EU, according to a report by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released earlier this week.
Mexico and Egypt are the fourth and fifth countries after Bangladesh, which consumes 5 per cent of the global imports of 59.4 lakh tonnes, the report shows.
“People are showing more interest to eat fresh fruits as the threat of adulteration has reduced,” said Serajul Islam, general secretary of the Bangladesh Fresh Fruits Importers Association (BFFIA).
Consumers were shy about the quality fruits until 2016, fearing the adulteration of a toxic chemical known as formalin.
The fears eased though after the government said there was no formalin in fruits and vegetables, he said.
“Health consciousness increased along with rising purchasing power,” Islam added.
Bangladesh has been trying to grow apples for the last several years.
However, it is yet to become successful in producing the high-quality fruits owing to a high temperature and short winter, said an official of the Department of Agricultural Extension.
The USDA estimated that imports surged 44 per cent year-on-year to 271,000 tonnes in the last fiscal. It also predicted that apple imports would rise to 280,000 tonnes in 2020-21.
The popularity of the fruit in absence of domestic production would fuel imports, Islam said.
China is the biggest source of apple for importers followed by India, South Africa, Brazil and Australia, New Zealand and from some European countries.
In a report in 2016, the USDA said Bangladesh emerged as a robust market for apples as its consumers of middle to upper-income groups are gradually demanding more diversified foods, including imported fruits.
Modern retail outlets, high-end hotels and restaurants fuel this rising demand but the unorganised sector, including push carts, street vendors, corner shops and weekly markets, constitutes the majority of food retail sales, it said.
The country’s apple imports stood at 140,000 tonnes on average annually between 2009 and 2014 while its value grew from $68.8 million to $103.5 million over the same period, the USDA said.
Islam said fresh apples remain available throughout the year as importers bring the tasty fruit from various regions.
Imports would have increased if the government reduced tariff since the total tax paid to import the fruit currently stands at 93 per cent, Islam added.
Reference And Collected from: The Daily Star