Easy access for exports to Saudi market

NEWS reports on Thursday in some national dailies said that the government of Saudi Arabia is applying some non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to several Bangladeshi export items, mainly in the food categories which are in high demand among expatriate Bangladeshi nationals working in the kingdom. The report said that the government is going to request the Saudi government to harmonize the tariffs rules so that Bangladesh’s exports can enter the Saudi market without impediments. The problem is that Saudi customs officials apply rigid and non-transparent NTBs on exports on many occasions and they also change the rules frequently to cause uncertainties and also harassment to our exporters often for no fault of their own.
The troubles mainly relate to packaging, labeling standards, certification of products, particularly of processed food and food related items. It also includes pharmaceuticals, spices, shrimps and frozen foods, leather and leather goods to name some more items facing the censors. The report has pointed to some shortfalls including the absence of a well-equipped laboratory facility in Bangladesh to test and certify exportable products. As a result, exporters have to send products to facilities outside the country for tests and export certifications. It is expensive for many of them individually. Moreover, Bangladesh Accreditation Board (BAB) is yet to be authorized by international accreditation bodies to run tests and issue certificates to export quality products. So the country’s exporters are depending on US Food and Drug Administration guidelines while securing test reports from outside laboratory facilities; but in many cases the Saudi government does not accept it.
For instance, Riyadh does not accept description of nutritional information of food and food products following the guidelines of the US regulatory body. Riyadh also does not allow any logo which mentions the word ‘Halal’ on the packages; especially on food products although it does not complain about it in the case of other countries. So exporters have to maintain separate packaging and labeling for exports to Saudi Arabia at additional cost. Meat exports to Saudi Arabia by an established business house in Bangladesh is facing problem because of certification problem. Vegetable exports is also facing some NTBs reminding us of the urgent need to resolve the problems by harmonizing the Saudi customs requirements. We must use trade diplomacy to overcome the barriers. We believe that these are matters which can be resolved through discussions on the table. Bangladesh has a huge expatriate community in Saudi Arabia and they would prefer to have easy access to their home products and we believe that the Saudi government will do everything to make it possible .
But we should also be aware of the fact that Bangladesh should have both the institutional capacity and laboratory facilities to run our own quality testing and issue certification at the international standard level and especially to meet the Saudi requirements in this particular case. We hope the government will act on both tracks to secure concessions from the Saudi government in one hand and quickly set up its laboratory facility on the other to end the root cause.

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