28-01-2014:The Financial Express: The government has taken a move to resume export of frozen foods to the Russian market where exports have remained suspended for more than two months, officials said. Russia, one of the potential markets for Bangladesh's frozen foods, has put a temporary restriction on its import due to failure in complying with the required microbiological standards.
The industry people said the frozen food sector has already been hit hard due to political turmoil over a couple of months, and the sector will face another blow if Russia prolongs its restriction. "Most of the countries of the world follow the ICMSF (International Commission for Microbiological Standards for Food) standards relating to bacterial load while importing food. But Russia does not do this," Fish Inspection and Quality Control (FIQC) Principal Scientific Officer (PSO) Nittya Ranjan Biswas told the FE.
"As per the ICMSF standards, 1.0 million CFUs (Colony Forming Unit) are allowed in 20 gram of fish for human consumption. But Russia allows 0.1 million CFUs in 20 gram as per its own (cold-water region) standard," he said.
Mr Biswas said: "Bangladesh is a tropical country and its bacterial growth is very fast. It takes two to four days to reach the raw materials from farm level to processing units and during this period bacterial load might increase." The local processing units can maintain the ICMSF standards but not those of Russia. But these units are trying their best to meet the requirement, he said.
Four Bangladeshi companies -- Bagerhat Sea Food Ltd, Fresh Foods Ltd, Apex Food Ltd and ARK Sea Food Ltd -- got approval from the Department of Federal Service for Phytosanitary Surveillance of the Russian Federation in September 2009. The FIQC PSO said, "We have inspected two fish processing plants -- Apex Food Ltd and ARK Sea Food Ltd -- soon after they got temporary restriction from the Russian Federation."
On that visit we identified factors which can cause excessive bacterial presence and expressed our observations for correction. The bacterial contamination can happen due to water supply, contact surface, workers' personal hygiene. FIQC officials have tested water samples and other matters and cross-checked the fish processing plants on three occasions.
Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association (BFFEA) President Md Amin Ullah said: "We export around seven per cent out of our total shrimps to Russia and frozen foods worth Tk 3.0 to 3.5 billion are exported annually to the country."
"Three companies, out of four, received temporary suspension last year with Apex Food Ltd getting it in August, ARK Sea Food Ltd in October and Fresh Foods Ltd in November while Bagerhat Sea Food Ltd got it in 2010." He said Russia is also doing the same thing with factories in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Thailand and EU countries.
Russia offers 10 to 20 cent higher price per kg than those offered by the European Union and the US to Bangladesh. It makes 30 per cent advance payments after deals so that the exporters can get relief from bank interest. It also makes full payment within short time of shipment.
Bangladesh exported frozen foods worth $ 377.42 million during July to December this fiscal year (FY 2013-14), compared to $ 289.73 million of the same period last fiscal, Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data showed. The government has set a target of exporting $ 578.77 million worth of frozen foods this fiscal.