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Exporting vegetables and other cargo from Bangladesh to the UK has been suspended for the last ten days as the approved explosive detection scanner (EDS) at Dhaka Airport has failed again.
All goods bound for the UK must be inspected by the EDS and traders say that, on average, around 10-12 tonnes of vegetables are exported to the UK when the EDS is operational.
Since the machine broke again, only around two tonnes has reached the UK, and that was via Qatar Airways which delivers cargo to its Doha hub where it can be scanned.
Garments and other cargo are also carried to the UK by scanning in third countries.
According to exporters, there are two old EDSs at Dhaka Airport, but only one has been UK approved The former has been out of order for the past two years while the approved one often breaks down, forcing delays to exports of 15 to 20 days.
Two other EDSs, installed recently with funding from Japan International Cooperation Agency, scan air cargo for the EU and other destinations.
SM Jahangir Hossain, president of the Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters’ Association, said: “You cannot do vegetable exports with scanners that become inoperative so often.
“We wrote to the civil aviation authority but it is not taking any effective measures, despite repeated requests.”
Mr Hossain added that Bangladeshi exporters could lose market share for UK exports if these logistics problems continue. Bangladesh exported fruit and vegetables worth $120m in fiscal year 2020-21, according to data provided by the association.
Nasir Ahmed Khan, director at the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, told The Loadstar: “Vegetables are perishable items which if not handled properly during scanning at third countries can go rotten.”
In September, a similar situation arose when both EDSs failed, leading to cargo being stockpiled at the airport, with loaded trucks queuing in nearby roads. But while exports to the UK were halted, goods were able to transported to Europe and other destinations following checks by sniffer dogs.
AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan, executive director at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, said: “Since the UK is yet to give clearance for the two new EDSs, we cannot scan goods with them for the UK.”
He said spare parts must be brought from abroad to repair the disabled EDS machines and “we are hopeful we can make the EDS functional within the next two weeks.”