March 15, 2024
Apex Foods Limited, a Chattogram-based shrimp exporter, plans to export processed white fish – a general term for fish with white flesh that includes many species such as cod, haddock, hake, and sole – to the European market and Russia.
To achieve this, the company will import white fish from Europe and Africa and process them in its factory. Company officials say this process will add around 40% value to the imported fish, with earnings of over $1 per kilogram of processed fish.
The company recently applied to the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock for permission to import white fish under duty-free facilities. Following the application, a meeting was held at the Department of Fisheries on 14 February. Currently, import duty on white fish is 58%.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the Department of Fisheries, the Ministry of Commerce, the National Board of Revenue, the Marine Fisheries Association, and Apex Foods Limited. At the meeting, it was decided to set up a technical committee to facilitate the import permission process.
Ashim Kumar Barua, director of Apex Foods, said the import, release and export processes of white fish will strictly adhere to all government regulations. Due to the high labour costs associated with fish processing in Europe, suppliers have expressed interest in completing this process in Bangladesh. In addition to earning foreign exchange, this initiative will also create employment opportunities.
He also mentioned that a fruitful discussion took place on 14 February regarding the permission to import white fish. He expressed optimism about receiving import approval soon.
Currently, the company has a processing capacity of 67 tonnes of shrimp per day, yet it only utilises 35%-40% of this capacity due to supply shortages. The company wants to import white fish to utilise its unused capacity, company officials say.
They say that with the permission of the government, the imported white fish will be processed in their factory in Pahartali area of Chattogram after being released from the Chattogram port. Then the fish will be exported to European countries and Russia on behalf of the exporters.
Nurul Qayyum Khan, president of the Bangladesh Marine Fisheries Association, told TBS that it is crucial to determine the percentage of waste and value added during processing after the import of fish. There needs to be a monitoring system and regular reporting on the quantity of fish imported and exported from the imported fish.
The Chief Scientific Officer of the Department of Fisheries, Md Muniruzzaman, said there have been discussions about forming a technical committee to provide a report on this matter to the ministry. However, the outline has not yet been finalised.
He added that the potential misuse of duty-free import facilities and cash incentive facilities will be discussed in a meeting after the formation of the technical committee.
According to the company, the storage capacity of Apex Food’s three cold storages in Chattogram is 2,400 tonnes. The company has invested Tk150 crore in the fish export sector and has an annual turnover of around Tk400 crore. About 1,000 workers are employed by the company. While the company exports fish worth Tk400 crore annually, reduced production has led to annual shrimp exports of only about Tk250 crore.
According to the Chattogram Customs House, marine fish are imported from Yemen, Paraguay, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, China, Pakistan, Myanmar and India through Chattogram port and Teknaf land port. In 2018-19 FY, about 80,000 tonnes of marine fish were imported, but in 2022-23 FY, this figure dropped to 12,000 tonnes. In 2021-22 FY, 66,374 tonnes of frozen fish were imported.
However, sector insiders have voiced concerns about the import of marine fish as imported fish are not tested for heavy metals before release. Heavy metals have been detected in imported marine fish on various occasions.
According to the Chattogram Customs House, currently samples of imported fish consignments are sent to the Atomic Energy Commission’s Atomic Energy Centre for radiation testing and to the office of Fish Inspection and Quality Control for formalin testing. These tests only determine whether formalin and radioactivity levels are within tolerable limits. There is currently no method in place to detect the presence of heavy metals in imported fish.
Europe / Apex Foods / White fish / Fish export / Bangladesh
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