The country imports dry pepper, cumin, cardamom, and cloves, as they are not produced locally
The import of major spices rose by 17% in August after a slow July as businesses rushed to meet consumer demand ahead of Eid-ul-Azha.
Revenue board officials said the import of spices sees a major spike ahead of every Eid-ul-Azha as the ingredients are widely used in cooking during the festive period.
According to the Customs Department of the National Board of Revenue (NBR), Bangladesh imported spices including ginger, garlic, dry pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and cayenne pepper at a cost of Tk203.47 crore in July.
This was a year-on-year rise of 16.8% on the Tk174.2 crore imported in July 2017.
Ahsan Habib, deputy director of Customs Department of NBR, said most of the spices are imported from India, Qatar, and Brunei.
“Some spices are produced here but it is not sufficient to meet the demand,” he said.
“We had to import before Eid-ul-Azha because of the huge demand. If we can produce more through other initiatives, we will not have to depend on imports as much as we do now.”
According to Agriculture Extension Department officials, a total of 867,330 metric tons of garlic, ginger, cayenne, and cinnamon were produced in Bangladesh in FY2016-17 – a rise of 15.5% on the 751,092 metric tons produced in FY2015-16.
However, in order to meet the huge demand, NBR sources said around 90,548 metric tons of the four items were also imported in the FY2016-17, with the import of every spice except garlic seeing an increase.
The country only imports dry pepper, cumin, cardamom, and cloves, as they are not produced locally.
That meant that in the 2016-17 fiscal year, the total import of spices was worth Tk2,762.85 crore.
“Not all spices are produced in our country owing to the weather, (plus) our farmers do not know how to cultivate rare spices, so we have to import these,” Agronomist Sabina Yesmin, assistant botanist of the horticulture wing of Agriculture Extension Department, told the Dhaka Tribune.
SM Nazer Hossain, vice-president of the Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said local spice production could be boosted to meet demand but that many businessmen are more interested in importing goods like the onion to make more profit.
“If the government takes proper initiative to cultivate spices, and farmers are motivated, it is possible to meet the demand with locally produced spices,” he said. “The government should give incentives to farmers to cultivate spices.”
An initiative was taken under former Bangladesh Bank governor Atiur Rahman to disburse loans for the cultivation of spices, but it stopped after his tenure ended in March 2016.