Bangladesh's export basket is getting a big boost as the shipment of dry food items has made a massive headway with six-and-a-half time jump in a decade.
Local dry food producers had made a shipment of US$243.47 million worth of goods during July-April period of the current fiscal year (FY) 2020-21, posting a 49 per cent growth compared to the same period last fiscal, government data showed.
A decade ago in FY2012, the volume of shipment of the dry food was very nominal to $37.19 million, Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data showed.
Manufacturers and analysts said the impact of the Covid-19 across the world could be one of reasons for the rise in exports of the Bangladeshi products.
During the pandemic, the food importing countries' dependency on dry food and other related stuff has increased, they said.
Besides, the government policy support, including cash incentives from 2010, has facilitated the export of the Bangladeshi ago-processing food, they noted.
The FE analysis has found that the shipment of dry foods - biscuits, cakes, uncooked pasta, corn flakes, bread, waffles and wafer, couscous, mixed-food preparation ingredients, chips, chanachur, chocolate, and different prepared food from cereals - had swelled by more than double in the first 10 months of the current FY2021, compared to that in four years ago in FY2017.
In FY2017, the volume of Bangladeshi dry food export was $109.61 million.
But in July-April of the current FY2021, the volume had picked up to $243.47 million, EPB data showed.
In FY2018, the export got a big boost with foreign exchange earnings of $201.36 million from the overseas markets.
Similarly, the shipment of the Bangladeshi dry foods in the following FY2019 also marked a significant rise to $227.09 million.
Although the shipment in a single FY2020 was recorded negative, the local dry food producers had regained their strong footprint in the global dry food market in the current FY2021.
In FY2020, Bangladeshi producers exported the prepared food worth $193.71 million to different overseas markets.
India, Nepal, Bhutan, Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Hong Kong, the UK, Italy and France are the leading importers of the Bangladeshi dry food items.
Khurshid Ahmad Farhad, general manager of Bombay Sweets, told the FE that the 20 per cent cash incentive had helped the Bangladeshi ago-processing food industry in enlarging the shipment of the dry foods.
Besides, the Covid-induced lockdown in some cases becomes a boon for the exporters as the food habit of the people in the importing countries has changed to some extent, resulting in the rise in dry food export in the current fiscal, he added.
"Although it's a baby export industry in Bangladesh, within a few years the foreign exchange earnings will touch a billion dollar mark," Mr Farhad said.
Md Shafiqur Rahman Bhuiyan, president of the Bangladesh Auto Biscuits & Bread Manufacturers Association, told the FE that the coronavirus had forced the international consumers to depend more on processed food, prompting the export of Bangladeshi dry food items.
Besides, some government incentives alongside the agro-processing industrial boom have facilitated the diversification of the export basket of the country, he added.
Syed Mohammad Shoaib Hassan, managing partner of Chittagong-based HIFS Agro Food Industries, told the FE that Bangladeshi producers had continued their production when the Covid-19 had shutdown manufacturing industries in the competing countries.
So, the export of the products had increased in the current FY2021, he added.
The cash incentives, lower labour cost, and available raw material at home have also prompted the increase in shipment, Mr Hassan noted.
Research Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr GK Moazzem told the FE that it was a good piece of news for the country that the dry food was keeping its footprint in the export diversification basket.
"Now we have to establish ourselves as the global brand going beyond the ethnic market dependency overseas. For this, the local industries could go for joint-venture with some international brand companies," he suggested.
Besides, it is needed to know the taste of international consumers and their types of food demands in order to increase the export, he added.