BD maintains decision on fumigation controls

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Bangladesh stands by its decision to maintain the fumigation requirement for cotton imported from the United States despite opposition from local spinners.

The government confirmed its decision in the new import policy for the period from 2021 to 2024.

“Fumigation is mandatory for all imports of raw cotton from the United States or produced and packaged in the Western Hemisphere,” reads the gazette published on Sunday in this regard.

Local spinners and cotton importers have repeatedly urged the government to remove the “age-old provision” to fumigate when importing raw cotton from the United States to save time and money.

Bangladesh imports cotton from a number of countries, including South Africa, India, Brazil and the United States, to meet the huge demand for raw materials for its local market and its sector. export-oriented ready-to-wear, industrialists said.

But, in Bangladesh, only American cotton is subjected to fumigation, a process of eliminating “boll weevil” from the specific cotton germ, they said.

Even a shipment containing cotton imported from other countries is subject to fumigation if it contains US cotton.

They noted that the fumigation rule was enacted in the late 1960s. It does not currently apply to Bangladesh, as the country meets the huge demand for cotton mainly through imports.

The fumigation procedure imposes additional costs on local importers.

Moreover, it is very time consuming and thus hinders the entire export process, said Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) Chairman Mohammad Ali Khokon.

The fumigation process and customs clearance require five days or more. This causes congestion at Chattogram Port and also adds 3.0 to 4.0 cents to the cost per bale, which affects the competitiveness of businesses in the country, he noted.

“American cotton is the best quality cotton,” he said, reiterating his request to withdraw fumigation verification.

When asked, Mohammad Ayub, president of the Bangladesh Cotton Association, echoed the BTMA leader.

About 9.0% of the country’s total cotton needs are met by importing from the United States, he said, adding that the share could be increased up to 20% if there were no such a fumigation requirement.

Even US authorities have agreed to issue a certificate that the cotton is free of boll weevil, he said.

According to the BTMA, some 425 spinning mills out of a total of 1,461 members supply around 90% of the yarn demand for knitwear and 35-40% of the yarn demand for woven goods exports.

The country spends between US$3.5 billion and US$4.0 billion annually to import about 8.0 million bales of cotton.

It imports cotton mainly from African countries, India, Australia and the United States, while Brazil has been added to the list of importing countries in recent years, according to the BTMA.

Bangladesh produces only 0.16 million bales of cotton annually.

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