Processed food products of the country are unable to enter the world market in the absence of an internationally accepted standards laboratory which can certify the quality of these products, said participants in a seminar on Thursday.
Saying that Bangladesh only exports foods to meet ethnic market demand overseas, they emphasised the need for increasing the capacity of the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) and creating a recognised, world class standards laboratory.
The seminar was arranged by BSTI at its office in Tejgaon, Dhaka, on the occasion of the 52nd World Standards Day.
Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun said, "World-class certification of BSTI is essential to enter the world market of agro-based products. However, BSTI is working on providing certification to increase the export of halal products to Islamic countries."
"We can take up a project to build a modern and internationally acceptable laboratory. If we need to talk to foreign donors for this, we may get their cooperation. If not, we will do it on our own," he added.
The minister said, "It is not only necessary to send products to meet the needs of Bangladeshi expatriates overseas, but also to compete in the world market with quality products to expand exports. We don't want to see BSTI certification centred on Ramadan or Eid. BSTI needs to be prepared to work to meet international market standards."
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President, Md Jashim Uddin, said, "The country's industrial entrepreneurs have to spend a lot of money abroad on lab tests of various products. If BSTI had the capability and global acceptance we would not have to go abroad for these tests."
"There is a huge demand for agro-based products worldwide. But we can't go beyond the ethnic market because there is no domestic standards organization of international standing for quality verification of our products. Now there is no alternative but to modernise BSTI. The institute needs to set up an international standards laboratory, because international quality certification is required for the export of goods to the world market," he added.
Zakia Sultana, secretary of the ministry of industry, said, "Building a world-class laboratory would help stop the flow of money into chemical tests, as well as increase the acceptability of the country's products in the international market."
However, she said BSTI would also have to take more effective steps to prevent food adulteration and maintain the quality of products.
Md Nazrul Anwar, director general of BSTI, highlighted various activities of the organisation at the event.