Bangladesh resumes crab exports to China after 9-month pandemic hiatus

Bangladesh has restarted the export of crabs to China, its biggest market, after a pause of nine months amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Exports resumed on Jun 2 after the country fulfilled some conditions set by China over quality control and the use of false certificates, said Niaz Uddin, deputy director of the Department of Fisheries.

China enlisted five new companies for trade and already 34 consignments of crab and Asian swamp eels have been exported, he said.

In June 2020, China laid out a set of conditions after some of the exported crabs and eels were found to contain lead and cadmium in them.

Exports continued as the Department of Fisheries issued certificates after testing the products in its laboratory. However, they were halted again in September when an exporter was caught sending products using a false certificate.

The exporter, BM Traders, has since been blacklisted for the fraudulent act.

"At present, the export certificate is issued only after the products undergo 12 or 13 tests at three fisheries department laboratories in Savar, Chattogram and Khulna," said Niaz.

Earlier, anyone could export crab and eel to China as no test or certificate was required.

"Certificate is issued now in English and Mandarin as per China's requirement."

Crab exports collapsed in early 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic hit the global economy.

According to the Export Promotion Bureau, Bangladesh exported crabs worth $35 million in fiscal 2019-2020, which dropped to $12 million a year later.

Although Bangladeshi crabs are imported by a host of countries, including Hong Kong, Myanmar, Vietnam, Japan and Malaysia, China is its main market.

A slump in the crab export to China pushed down the overall crab export to 50 percent of its usual amount.

Last year, China stopped taking crabs from Bangladesh due to the lack of laboratory tests it demanded, and the use of false certificates by some exporters, according to Bangladesh Frozen Fish Exporters Association Vice President S Humayun Kabir.

Consequently, farmers in Satkhira, Bagerhat, Chandpur and some others parts of Bangladesh counted severe financial losses.  Some of them even left the trade.

Crab prices took a nosedive after the Chinese market was shut, said Biplob Kumar, who used to buy crabs from farmers in Bagerhat and supply those to the exporters in Dhaka.

The price was around Tk 800 a kg for crabs weighing 500 grams each, he said. Now it has dropped to Tk 550.

"Crab collection and farming got disrupted too," Kumar said.

"The business has really shrunk because of the COVID-19 outbreak and the closure of the Chinese market," said Kartik Roy, manager of Nayon Enterprise, a crab export company in Uttara.

Now, there are no more obstacles to the export of crabs as the certificates required by China have been arranged in coordination with the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, said Additional Secretary Hafizur Rahman of the commerce ministry.

“Any company can export crabs to China in compliance with the new rule. Those who ceased crab farming can resume production.”

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