The dairy item needs standard certification and to be listed as customs tariff schedule product
Whether at home or abroad, Bogura yogurt does not stay long on store shelves.
For instance, 6,000 kilograms of the renowned north Bengal dairy specialty was sent to the USA, and quickly sold out. In 2009, when the yogurt was put up for sale at a trade fair in India, the shelves emptied in a matter of a few hours.
Yogurt manufacturers in the north-western district of Bogura said the dairy item has huge export potential in foreign markets including India, Nepal and the USA. Unfortunately, for lack of government initiatives, this has not materialized.
Local businessmen who had spoken to Bogura Deputy Commissioner in this regard were promised on several occasions that export measures would be taken up.
When contacted, Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin told The Business Standard that they had not received any applications for yogurt export.
"We will take measures accordingly if the manufacturers inform us what kind of cooperation they need for export. Yogurt makers' union, if there is any, or the Bogura Chamber of Commerce and Industry, can reach us. I will personally contact the chamber," he added.
The Secretary said the government is eager to diversify its export basket and the ministry promptly takes requisite measures should any items demonstrate minimum export potential.
On behalf of the Commerce Ministry, he assured the yogurt manufacturers all-out support.
We will take measures accordingly if the manufacturers inform us what kind of cooperation they need for export. Yogurt makers' union, if there is any, or the Bogura Chamber of Commerce and Industry, can reach us.
For export, yogurt manufacturers spoke about the need for speedy transportation to preserve quality. As a pilot initiative, they suggested exporting the yogurt via refrigerated freight containers to neighboring India and Nepal.
To export yogurt, it would first need to be transported from Bogura to Dhaka airport, which means that Bogura district needs an airport.
Dairy traders said another barrier for yogurt export is that the item is not on the customs tariff schedule product list. Besides, given that yogurt is produced by bacterial fermentation, it cannot be sent to foreign markets without standard certification.
In Bogura, there are around 400 manufacturing units producing 50 tonnes of yogurt per day. The daily production doubles during festivals, like the two Eids.
Bogura-based Asia Sweets makes two tonnes of yogurt daily and the sweet dessert is usually sold out by afternoon at their outlets across the country.
Asia Sweets Director, Md Nurul Bashar Chandan, said he sent the item to India's Siliguri trade fair where it was quickly sold out.
Bogura-based Akboria Group manufactures sweetmeats and other food items. Though the group is currently exporting vermicelli, they cannot send yogurt abroad.
"We produce three tonnes of yogurt daily. Our yogurt was supplied at a number of national events as they met the standard testing requirements," Akboria Group Chairman Md Hasan Ali Alal told The Business Standard.
The group sent 10,000 units of 600-gm containers to the USA. Hasan Ali said the buyers appreciated the taste and quality.
Another sweetmeat maker, Shova Enterprise, participated in a fair in India in 2009, and said border forces and customs of the two countries provided great support in delivering the yogurt to the fair.
"The yogurt sold out in just two hours," said proprietor of Shova Enterprise, Syed Ahammad Kiron.
He said that with government policy support, expansion of production capacity and quality control, yogurt has huge export potential.
Meantime, Bogura Mid City Sweets proprietor, Tanvir said yogurt export also could generate employment opportunities and bolster Bangladesh's dairy industry.
To facilitate yogurt export and attract investments in Bogura, setting up an airport is a must
Vice-President of Bogura Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mahfuzul Islam said to facilitate yogurt export and attract investments in Bogura, setting up an airport is a must.
Northern Workers Federation Member Secretary, Abdul Momin, said nearly 15,000 workers are involved in Bogura yogurt production. "Export could generate more employment in this sector and change their quality of life," he added.