Trade: Bangladesh, Bhutan’s main buyer of oranges and apples, wants to process fruits and vegetables in the country and do the final packaging in Bangladesh.

President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI), Abdul Matlub Ahmad, shared this in an exclusive interview with Kuensel, during his visit to Bhutan last week.

“We are keen to invest in Bhutanese fruit and vegetable processing industries in Bhutan,” he said.

He added that the Bangladesh business community prefers to import processed fruits and vegetables from Bhutan and do the final packaging in Bangladesh. “These are all perishable items.”

Since fruits are perishable, the FBCCI president said it is difficult for Bangladesh to import without processing. “If processing can take place here, Bhutan can get better price than what it gets today,” he said.

However, he added, “But we need to sort out things to achieve this.” One of the problems, he said, was that Bhutan’s banking system is not as fast and efficient as foreign traders want.

He said the FBCCI was exploring new areas of trade and investments with Bhutan. “I want to find out what Bhutan can export to Bangladesh so that we can identify the areas of new cooperation and increase the trade volume between the two countries,” he said.

Besides vegetables and fruits, he said Bhutan has a lot of spices. “We have a lot of things to buy from Bhutan.”

He said the current trade volume between the two countries is far below the potential. “I am not satisfied with the trade volume,” he said.

According to him, the two countries have exploited only 10 percent of the total potential in trade. “We want to explore the remaining 90 percent.”

Abdul Matlub Ahmad said that the FBCCI’s plan to enhance trade with Bhutan is a part of the Bangladesh government’s efforts to boost regional trade and connectivity.

“Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Our Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina) has declared that regional trade and connectivity should be boosted,” he said. “Bangladesh is not only ready to receive you but also invest in your country,” he said.

The FBCCI president met economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji and representatives of the business community.

Economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji said the private sector can look into the proposal. He also said that Bhutan already processes fruits and vegetables for export and consumption.

Bangladesh is also keen to invest in the Bhutanese hydropower sector. “We want to not only buy power from Bhutan but also invest in production,” The FBCCI president said.

MB Subba