The Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission has recommended the formation of a single umbrella for issuing health certification to agricultural and processed foods to boost export of the products.
Exporters will get all types of health certificates as per the requirements of importing countries from the proposed health certification authority to be formed comprising of representatives of the relevant entities, said a BTTC report.
A BTTC committee recently sent the report to the commerce ministry for consideration.
The ministry formed the committee to assess the economic impacts of having and not having such a body and to place recommendations regarding the matter.
Bangladesh is currently unable to tap into the potentials of export of agroprocessed products due to an absence of a single certification authority as exporters are required to visit several government entities to avail the health certification.
According to the International Trade Centre, Bangladesh exported agro-based and non-farm food products worth $912 million in 2019, which is only 0.06 per cent of global imports worth $1,575.68 billion in the year.
Currently, Bangladesh exports such products to 130 countries.
‘The volume of exports will increase manifold if the problems related to certification could be solved,’ the report said.
The government can form the body bringing together representatives from all related authorities, including the Department of Agricultural Extension, the Department of Fisheries, the Department of Livestock Services, the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and other entities, to provide certification services through one stop service method, it said.
Exports of agricultural and agro-processed food products are now hampered due to the absence of a single certification body.
Standards for food products are usually different in different countries which set the standards and testing parameters for products as per their own requirements.
Some countries also impose various non-tariff barriers on import of food products over various issues.
For example, the European Union has imposed a ban on the import of betel leaves from Bangladesh since 2014 upon detection of salmonella bacteria while China has recently imposed a ban on the import of crab and eel from Bangladesh over the presence of heavy metal and cadmium.
According to the report, exporters usually export agro products using the BSTI certificates that are issued at the production stage. But export of products to countries sometimes require more than one quality certificate.
A Halal certificate issued by the Islamic Foundation is required to export meat to Middle Eastern countries while a plant quarantine certificate issued by the DAE is required to export plants and plant products.
The DoF provides the health certificate for export of fish and the DLS issues the health certificate for meat and meat products and dairy products.
Some countries also require ‘fit for human consumption’ declaration for the export of agro-processed foods. Currently, Square and PRAN Group themselves issue the declaration.
The country also lacks an international standard lab for testing food quality and adequate accredited testing labs while the issuing of health certificates by several agencies is time consuming matter, the report mentioned.
All services should be provided through a one-stop service under a single umbrella to overcome the problems, it said. Under the plan, the authorities concerned will perform the testing activities that they do now and the proposed body will issue certificates, it added.
The committee also recommended that an international standard testing laboratory should be set up and existing labs should be accredited to provide health certification to agricultural and agro-processed foods and products.
The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution should also increase the number of products from the current 184 under its mandatory certification system, it said.