Russia lifted the ban on Bangladeshi potato exports on March 5, 10 days after the attack on Ukraine, which was suspended for almost seven years. At a time when Russia has lifted the embargo, why only Bangladesh, no country can do normal business with Russia. As a result, the lifting of the ban is currently being facilitated on paper.
Bangladeshi exporters are now hoping that contact with Russian importers after the end of the Russia-Ukraine war could yield positive results. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Russia’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance imposed a temporary ban on the import of Bangladeshi potatoes on May 8, 2015, citing the existence of a harmful bacterium called ‘brown droot’. The bacteria was caught in the potatoes of an exporter called Agri Concern. The exporters said that Bangladesh had fulfilled the conditions given by Russia long ago but had not lifted the ban for so long.
Russia also wants to know the details of testing and verification of production process before exporting potatoes. The country imposed the ban when the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Commerce considered Russia as a potential market for the export of surplus potatoes from Bangladesh.
In this regard, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi told Prothom Alo on March 22 , “Russia is a big market for potato exports. We are happy to lift the ban. Now we need to focus on producing quality potatoes that Russian importers want. Only then can we capture the Russian market.
Former Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed once told reporters in 2015 that the Russian market is so large that it is possible to export 100,000 tons of potatoes a year to that country alone. But now exporters say at least 500,000 tonnes of potatoes could be exported to Russia.
Potatoes are one of the staple foods of the people of Russia, Ukraine and Poland.
The Russian embassy in Dhaka first reported the information to Bangladesh’s foreign ministry on March 6, two days after Russia lifted the embargo. Earlier, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi and Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzak had been urging Russian Ambassador to Dhaka Alexander V. Mantitsky to lift the ban on potato exports.
On March 13, the Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh informing him of Russia’s lifting of sanctions. And the Ministry of Commerce informed this information to the concerned parties including Bangladesh Potato Exporters Association last week.
Ferdousi Begum, President of Bangladesh Potato Exporters Association and Managing Director (MD) of Ferdous Biotech Limited , told Prothom Alo : “I welcome the decision of Russia. However, as the export has been stopped for many days, the importers of that country have to find a new one. Now it would be better to have a road show in Russia organized by EPB.
It is not just Russia that has lifted the ban on potato exports to Bangladesh after the invasion of Ukraine. Russia has also lifted sanctions on imports of Chinese nuts, Bosnian pears, Serbian sister and seed fruits, and Azerbaijan’s apples.
An exporter, who did not want to be named, told Prothom Alo : “Even if Russia lifts the embargo from its diplomatic space, Bangladesh should seize the opportunity.”
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), 60,000 tons of potatoes were exported from Bangladesh in FY14-15. 14,000 tons are exported to Russia. In the previous fiscal year 2013-14, 20,000 tons of potatoes were exported to Russia, from which the income of Bangladesh is 33 million US dollars.
Although exports to Russia have stopped, Bangladeshi potatoes have been exported to other countries. According to EPB, more potatoes are exported from Bangladesh to Malaysia. Besides, it is exported to Sri Lanka and Nepal. Singapore, Greece, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Brunei, Myanmar, Maldives, Oman, Bahrain, Italy, Cambodia, Kuwait, Vietnam – these countries used to be exported but now they are not.
Potatoes from Bogra and Rangpur are better than Munshiganj for export, said the exporters. According to them, there is a crisis of good potato in the country. And there is always the possibility of capturing the Russian potato market. Because, at the time of the year when the demand for potatoes in Russia increases, that is the main season of potato production in Bangladesh.
The government currently provides 20 per cent cash assistance for potato exports. Neighboring India, however, provides 30 per cent cash assistance, including 10 per cent on transport. Bangladeshi exporters have complained that there is a lot of hassle due to lack of OSS services at one door.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, in the last fiscal year 2020-21, Bangladesh produced 11.3 million tons of potatoes. In that year, the demand for potatoes in the country was about 6 million tons.
Ferdousi Begum, president of the Potato Exporters Association and MD of Ferdous Biotech, said, “We need to set up an Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) like India. Then the export of all agricultural and processed products including potatoes will increase.