Bangladesh now emerges as a high fruit-producing country, securing the 28th place in the world, a FAO report says.
However, Agriculture Ministry officials have pointed out a drastic fall in fruit exports in recent times.
In a span of 10 years stretching from 2000 to 2010, fruit production grew 11.8 per cent per hectare of land, while the growth rate was 10 per cent during 1990-2000. The country now produces 43 lakh tonnes of fruit every year.
Traders say seasonal fruits are now in high demand, which led to low sales of the imported ones. The local seasonal fruits include mango, litchi, watermelon, pineapple, guava and jackfruit, while apple, malta and grapes are imported. Visiting city markets like Karwan Bazar, Boubazar, Kalabagan and Hatirpool, this correspondent found that local fruit sales had shot up.
Mohammad Ali, a fruit vendor at Hatirpool, said, "People wait throughout the year for these seasonal fruits. This is why demand for imported fruits goes down during this time."
Also, some vendors shift to selling other item like fruits. Abdul Hannan is one of them. He used to sell clothes in front of the Pen Pacific Hotel Sonargaon but has turned into a fruit vendor for every season.
"Every season I switch over to fruit selling as I can earn more from this business," he said.
Sirajul Islam, general secretary of Bangladesh Fresh Fruit Importers Association, echoed the view on sales-drop of imported fruits during this high time of seasonal fruits.
Meanwhile, the government has taken initiative to promote the processing and marketing of fruits across the country, which, sector people hope, will make room for preserving such perishable item.
According to the Department of Agriculture Extension, a ban on fruit exports is now in place, contributing considerably to the fall in exports.
Export Promotion Bureau data show the country fetched $3,84,00,000 from fruit exports last fiscal year against $6,18,00,000 the previous year (2013-14).
Shubhashish Basu, Vice Chairman of EPB, said Europe sent back a few consignments of fruits as those did not have phytosanitary certification.
European Union threatened slapping a ban on imports of fruits and vegetables from Bangladesh after harmful worm and bacteria were found in those food items.
Agriculture Ministry officials said many exporters are not registered, which is also a reason for the export-drop. Any trader willing to export fruits must get his organiation registered, they added.
Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters Association data show about 47-48 per cent fruits are exported to Europe from Bangladesh. The EU's embargo has affected the overall exports of fruits, the association said.
A number of Bangladeshi exporters said formalin-laden fruits left a negative impact on exports. However, litchi and mango exports were quite good. SM Jahangeer Hossain, the trade body president, said a lack of space in cargo and additional expenses in exporting products by air shipment are the reasons behind the decline in fruit exports.
He said Bangladesh Biman charges Tk 180 for one kilogram of fruits while foreign airlines charge Tk130-132.