US welcomes Bangladesh’s decision to lift fumigation requirement for cotton imports

The decision will save Bangladeshi importers millions of dollars and five days of wait, the US Embassy says

Published : 22 May 2023, 08:25 PM
Updated : 22 May 2023, 08:25 PM

The US has welcomed Bangladesh government’s decision to remove the fumigation obligation on American cotton imports.

"US cotton can arrive in Bangladesh without fumigation at the port of entry, saving Bangladeshi importers millions of dollars and five days of waiting," the US Embassy in Dhaka said in a statement on Monday.

Fumigation is a method of pest control or the removal of harmful micro-organisms by completely filling an area with gaseous pesticides or fumigants to suffocate or poison the pests within.

US cotton had been under a fumigation obligation for nearly two decades because of an insect called the cotton boll weevil. This obligation was also maintained in the Plant Quarantine Act-2011.

After a meeting with a US delegation on Sunday, Agriculture Secretary Wahida Akter said that US cotton consignments had been undergoing a 10-day fumigation process to eliminate cotton boll weevils.

However, the US has consistently argued that fumigation is unnecessary.

Wahida clarified that the fumigation process was necessary to ensure that any living or harmful insects present in the imported cotton would be eliminated. By subjecting the cotton to a 10-day treatment with insecticides, the aim was to prevent the survival of any insects that might pose a threat.

During the unveiling of the draft of the new import policy in February 2022, former cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam highlighted the existence of a destructive insect in American cotton.

He expressed concerns about the significant negative impact it could have on cotton crops as well as other plants and fruits in Bangladesh if the insect were to spread.

The latest decision follows a successful November 2022 visit to the United States by a technical delegation from the Ministry of Agriculture, the embassy said.

The delegation verified that US cotton production employs effective pest management strategies and utilises various processing techniques such as ginning, lint cleaning, and bale compression, effectively eliminating the possibility of boll weevil infestation in American cotton, it said.

“The high-pressure conditions under which cotton is sent to us make it highly unlikely for any insects to survive,” Wahida said.

After receiving recommendations from the technical team, the Ministry of Agriculture informed the Ministry of Commerce, and with the consent of both ministries, the Act was amended. The official notification for the amendment was issued on May 16, she added.

“However, in compliance with APHIS regulations, the cotton must be accompanied by a certificate from the quarantine authority confirming its complete absence of boll weevil. We will proceed with the release of the cotton only upon receipt of such a certificate.”

Bangladesh is the second largest global importer of cotton, the seventh largest export market for US cotton, exceeding $475 million in export value in 2022, and has one of the largest readymade garment export industries in the world, according to the statement.

Previously, the fumigation requirement effectively imposed a delay in the delivery of US cotton, and Bangladeshi importers paid over a million dollars annually in fumigation costs on US cotton.

Allowing high-quality and sustainable US cotton to move smoothly through the supply chain will save the Bangladeshi RMG sector significant time and money, the embassy said.

“Working together with Bangladesh to solve this issue is a great example of how our two countries can collaborate to increase prosperity and remove trade barriers,” said Peter Haas, US Ambassador to Dhaka.

“Bangladesh needs high-quality US cotton to fuel its growth and increase its foreign exchange earnings, while American consumers rely on sustainable, high-quality garments produced in Bangladesh,” he added.

“The Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture looks forward to continuing to collaborate closely with the United States Department of Agriculture on combatting the climate crisis, developing innovative technologies, and ensuring food security, both in Bangladesh and around the world,” the statement quoted Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque as saying.

Over the last 22 years, the US government, in cooperation with the US cotton industry, has continually negotiated with the Government of Bangladesh to remove this fumigation requirement, it said.