Köttermann GmbH, a German company, is interested in setting up an agricultural laboratory in Bangladesh to carry out a testing of agri items destined for export, according to a letter sent by the firm to the Ministry of Agriculture.
A high-level delegation of Köttermann GmbH will visit Bangladesh soon for discussions in this regard, the German firm's Managing Director Kazim Doyuran wrote in the letter to Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque.
The company noted that its proposal might have German funding options for the lab.
In August, Bangladesh Ambassador to Germany Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan visited the company and recommended that the ministry consider the company's investment proposal.
"To boost agri export, our agriculture ministry wants to set up an international-level testing lab in Bangladesh. The German company seemed world-class to me," the ambassador told The Business Standard.
Köttermann GmbH, a corporation located in Germany's Hänigsen, specialises in the establishment of international standard laboratories around the world. The company, which was established in 1946, has over 70 years of expertise in laboratory establishment.
According to a report sent by the Bangladesh Embassy in Berlin, Köttermann GmbH has successfully established laboratories in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia and India. The firm is supplying materials for a lab of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.
At present, several public offices, such the Department of Agricultural Extension, the Department of Fisheries and the Department of Livestock Services issue certificates for agri exports. The Islamic Foundation issues halal certificates for export of products to the Middle East, while the Bangladesh Standards & Testing Institution (BSTI) certifies 181 products at the production level in line with Bangladeshi standards.
The Bangladesh Safe Food Authority issues quality certificates for exportable food products, but it does not have a lab. None of these organisations has the capacity to issue "Fit for Human Consumption" certificates – deterring Bangladeshi agri items from being widely available in European and US markets.
According to official data, Bangladesh is the third largest producer of wild-caught fishes and vegetables globally. Besides, the country is fifth in farmed fishes, second in jackfruit, seventh in mango and eighth in guava.
But Bangladesh's shrimp exports to Europe and crab and cuchia exports to China were suspended for a long time owing to standards-related issues. Freshwater fish exports to Saudi Arabia are still suspended, as Russia stopped importing potatoes from Bangladesh until March this year.
"European importers randomly test the agri items sourced from Bangladesh even though they carry our certification. In many cases, the products fail to meet European standards," Syed Mohammad Shoaib Hassan, vice president of the Bangladesh Agro-Processors' Association, told TBS.
He said the country should ramp up its testing capacity and recruit a skilled workforce to the facilities.
Abdus Sattar Mandal, former vice-chancellor of Bangladesh Agricultural University and a former member of the Planning Commission, said it is mandatory to achieve the capacity of issuing the certificates as per importers' demand.
"Many foreign buyers now even want to know the quality of water used in irrigation. Therefore, certifications of a competent authority are required to increase exports," he told TBS.
According to a Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission report, agri and food exports would increase almost 10 times if Bangladesh could capture only 0.5% of the world market by ensuring product quality and issuing globally accepted health certificates.
In the last fiscal year, Bangladesh earned $1.16 billion in agricultural exports, which is 2.23% of the country's total exports.