Having fresh fruits in the food basket is imperative since it has numerous health benefits including lowering blood pressure, preventing heart disease, and controlling sugar levels.
But local fresh fruits do not always serve the huge demands since most of them are seasonal. Thus importing fresh fruits seems the best solution to the problem.
And exotic fruits with diverse tastes and flavors always create demand in the market. According to Daily Star, 60% of the demand for fruits in Bangladesh has been served by external sources and it cost around Tk 2,500 crore annually. The fruits that are mostly imported in Bangladesh are apples, grapes, oranges, pears, kiwi, pineapple, banana, mango, papaya, etc.
However, even though import in general alleviates the growing demand, sometimes absolute and increasing dependency on import can lead to increased competition for domestic producers, potentially causing job losses and a decline in the domestic economy.
And when it comes to importing fresh fruits, maintaining quality control could be a heavy task.
Importing fruits can require compliance with various regulations and standards since fruits can deteriorate rapidly during transportation, making it important to carefully manage the time and temperature of storage and transport to ensure maximum freshness.
Another difficulty is fruits can be vulnerable to pests and diseases, which can reduce their quality and safety.
It is important to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to prevent the spread of pests and diseases during transportation and storage.
Fruits can be contaminated with harmful substances during the growing, harvesting, and transportation process, which can pose a risk to consumer health.
Thus, it requires rigorous control. The authorities have to identify whether the import abandons the demand for homegrown production.
Governments have several methods to control imports. Government can impose tariffs which is a taxes applied to imported goods, making them more expensive and less competitive with domestically produced goods.
Sometimes government limits the amount of a specific good that can be imported into a country, helping to protect domestic producers and control the influx of goods.
Government can impose an embargo which is a complete ban on the import of goods from a specific country or group of countries.
Customs inspections can be used to monitor the quality and safety of imported goods and to ensure compliance with trade agreements and regulations.
Regulations can also be used to control imports, such as food safety regulations that limit the import of goods that do not meet certain standards.
According to The Imports and Exports (Control) Act, 1950 government can prohibit and restrict imports and exports by publishing official gazettes.
To consider economic benefits government imposes an import duty on fresh fruits. Thus it assists local producers to compete against the demand for foreign fruits.
For instance, The National Board of Revenue (NBR) issued SROs from time to time to implement the control. Last year, the rate of regularity duty of various fresh fruits was increased to 20 percent which was considered a big jump.
Another effective alternative is subsidies, the financial support provided to domestic producers, making them more competitive with imported goods and helping to control the import of foreign goods. Providing subsidies to local exporters is actually a passive action to minimize the huge surge of importation.
The government can initiate incentives to promote export. Currently, the rate of subsidy on agricultural vegetables and fruits is 20%. These subsidies provide a big boost to the economy by encouraging farmers, and businessmen who are related to agriculture.
According to Export Promotion Bureau, Bangladesh exported $5.29 million worth of fruits to international markets in FY 2021-22.
Even though export accelerates economic growth, the excessive exports of locally produced fresh fruits would deprive the impoverished and underprivileged people of meeting their nutrition requirements. So it is highly essential for the government to control the import and export of fresh fruits.
However, the demand for exotic fruits will always prevail. The most aspiring thing is that many of the exotic fruits that have been imported over the years are now being cultivated by our own farmers.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), In the last financial year, Bangladesh produced 2.06 lakh tonnes of exotic fruits including sweet oranges, oranges, net melons, longans, rambutans, sweet oranges, strawberries, dragon fruits, and persimmons.
However, it will require extensive research and development so that entrepreneurial farmers don’t face any catastrophic losses while cultivating new exotic fruits.