Bangladeshi Mango in UK Supermarkets: A Success of FAO Technical Assistance
For the first time, Bangladeshi mangoes are to be available in a major UK supermarket. This is thanks to the efforts of the farmers in several mango producing districts (Satkhira, Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi) who have been working to improve their quality, supported by the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) to ensure no pest, disease or chemical contamination. Meanwhile, the Hortex Foundation of the Ministry of Agriculture conducted discussions with buyers, and ensured that all necessary certification was provided. The FAO-supported National Food Safety Laboratory at the Institute of Public Health (IPH), Bangladesh tested samples collected from Satkhira, and cleared for export on Thursday, 11 May 2015.
On a trial basis, 500 boxes of best quality mangoes (weighing 626 KG) from Satkhira district were shipped to ASDA (a Wal-Mart subsidiary), one of the largest retail chains in the UK, on 17 May 2015. Hortex Foundation confirmed that another shipment of 2.73 metric tons is expected to be on its way within ten days.
This success story began with FAO's Dutch funded Food Safety Programme which worked to highlight the connection between production & handling practices and product safety/quality, and how improving quality is the key to improved market access for exports. On a pilot basis, it has covered 25 sub-districts of Bangladesh, training 30 Master trainers, 100 lead trainers, and focusing on 500 lead farmers of mango, potato, brinjal and tomato.
Mango from Bangladesh has been sold in the UK to the niche ethnic market for some years. The challenge was to meet the higher standards of the supermarkets in order to command a premium price. Contacts began with ASDA in early 2014, with samples being sent during the 2014 season. And work began in earnest with the signing of a letter of agreement with the Hortex Foundation in October 2014, with support provided to registered farmers in a number of different districts. Currently, three varieties – Himsagar, Langra, and Amrapali (BARI Aam 3) have been selected for export. DIP International, a Bangladeshi export-oriented firm is making the first trial shipment.
To mark the occasion, a number of the key stakeholders gathered at a opening ceremony to celebrate ‘Mango Export from Bangladesh’, organized by Horticulture Export Development Foundation at AKM Giasuddin Milky Conference Room, Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) on Sunday, 17 May 2015. Dr. Md. Abdul Jalil Bhuyan, Managing Director, Hortex Foundation, and Mr. Shubhashish Bose, Additional Secretary & Vice Chairman, Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Ministry of Commerce were present at the ceremony. Mr. Mike Robson, FAO Representative in Bangladesh attended the event as the Guest of Honor.
Mr Robson expressed great satisfaction at this tangible evidence showing the benefits of technical assistance. He also urged the stakeholders to "remember that although quality Mango export has been started through a project, ASDA is not a donor but a commercial operation. If the Bangladeshi producers continue to supply quality product, with appropriate documentation, on time as requested by the buyer then the trade will thrive. If not, it will fail." He also expressed his personal thanks to the international consultant, Mike Dillon whose tireless efforts on behalf of the Bangladeshi farmers and produce exporters are now showing their first fruit (!). The contribution of the National Food Safety Laboratory FAO team was also praised, under the able leadership of Dr John Ryder, the Chief Technical Advisor.
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