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18 February, 2018 12:52:35 AM

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Biscuits bring bucks

SHARIF AHMED
Biscuits bring bucks

With net export earnings of USD 80.41 million in the first six months (July¬–December) of the 2017–18 financial year, biscuit manufacturers have started playing a significant role in the national economy. The sector’s importance is manifest from the fact that its export earnings were just USD 43.09 million in the 2016–17 financial year.

According to information provided by the president of the Bangladesh Auto Biscuits and Bread Manufacturers’ Association, Shafiqur Rahman Bhuiyan, to The Independent, the local market is growing at a faster rate—a 12–15 per cent growth rate—per year.

He added that this sector contributed 1.66 per cent of Bangladesh’s total gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009–10, with total annual production of more than 65,000 metric tonnes (MT) in the country at present.

“Today, we have 4,500 to 5,000 biscuit and bread manufacturers and/or organisations linked to them in this industry. Among them, some 100 factories operate automatically. These include 10 to 15 mega factories, 35 large factories and 50 medium-sized factories,” he added.  

Around 15 to 17 lakh people are currently working in this sector. The size of the local market is worth roughly Tk. 4,000 crore, he added.

 

Export earnings

Industry insiders said with proper policy support and more financial incentives, export earnings could rise by three times in the next couple of years.

Talking about the factories, Bhuiyan said, “To meet overseas demand, most of the export factories are enhancing their capacity. We export biscuits to 144 countries like Saudi Arabia, Australia, Malaysia, and those in Africa, Europe and North America, and many others.”

Anticipating future demand, he said, “Earlier, we used to import Lexus biscuits from Malaysia. But now, we instead manufacture and export to Malaysia Lexus biscuits, manufactured by Danish Foods Ltd.”

“If quality is ensured, then exports would increase, as would growth,” he added.

Azizul Haque, an employee of a multinational organisation, said: “Consumers’ lifestyles are changing. People have less time for cooking, so biscuits are not treated as snacks anymore. These have become an essential commodity in our society.”

Outlining some of the challenges confronting the sector, Bhuiyan further said, “Wheat is the prime ingredient for making biscuits. We produce wheat for only two months a year. The remaining 10 months we have to import wheat from abroad.”           

“Eighty per cent of wheat is imported and 20 per cent is locally sourced. The quality of the material, therefore, depends on the imports,” he said.  

Citing another challenge, he said to increase productivity, the development of workers’ skills was very important in this sector.

Referring to the moulding machines, he said, “As we don’t have enough biscuit moulding machines in the country, we have to import the mould (design) from abroad.”

“The production cost of biscuits would be much lower if we could import these moulding machines from abroad,” he observed.

He also said, “Another challenge is that we don’t have an adequate number of research cells or laboratories to develop innovative products and ensure food safety standards for all bakeries that produce biscuits.”

Describing the limitations of this sector, the general manager (sales and marketing) of Olympic Industries Ltd, Quazi Touhiduzzaman, told The Independent that the potential of two items—“cookies” and “cream biscuits”—was still untapped in the Bangladeshi market.

“We produce ‘cookies’ and ‘cream biscuits’ in the local market, but the quantity is very little. The potential of these two items has to be fully explored in the near future,” he observed.         

Citing another challenge, Touhiduzzaman pointed out that oil, sugar and wheat are the primary ingredients in making a biscuit. “Hence, if the prices of these products become unstable in local or foreign markets, then the production process would eventually be affected.”

 

Huge potential

He went on to add, “We employ more than 10,000 employees in our factory. We export our products to countries like Europe, America, Africa and the Middle East.”

When asked about the size of the local market, he replied, “The size of the local market is approximately Tk. 3,500–4,000 crore at this moment.”

Mentioning some of the famous brands, he said, “Energy Plus, Nutty, Tip, Chocolate Plus, Digestive, Crack Jack and Lexus are some of the famous brands that we have among the 33 brands at this moment.” He disclosed that “Olympic is the market leader at the moment, with 40 per cent market share”.

Responding to a question, Bhuiyan said, “A committee named the ‘Agro-Food Industry Skill Council’ has been formed to train employees in respect of occupational training, skills development and food safety.”

An official of Hashem Foods Ltd, requesting anonymity, said the quality of locally manufactured biscuits has improved tremendously over the past 10 to 15 years. “The tastes and preferences have changed, in particular, in accordance with consumers’ choices and demands.”

Giving an example, he said, “We recently manufactured a biscuit named ‘black cream biscuit’, which fully resembles ‘Cadbury Oreo biscuit’. Earlier, it used to be imported from abroad, and the price was three times higher than the local one. But the quality of the local ‘black cream biscuit’ is exactly comparable with that of the Oreo brand and that, too, at a cheaper rate.”

 

Quality scores

Olympic Industries Ltd’s general manager, Quazi Touhiduzzaman, provided an explanation of the brands, saying, “Our brands have been segmented into two parts—biscuits and cookies and bakery products.”

The cookies segment comprises dry cakes, ‘badami’ cookies and daily toast, which are manufactured fully by Olympic Industries Ltd, he added.

Touhiduzzaman also noted that new companies enter the sector every year and produce fresh, unique and quality biscuits to change the tastes of the local consumers and export to international markets. For instance, Reedisha Food and Beverage Ltd has made plans to manufacture biscuits and deliver its products to the local markets, he added.

“After 15 to 20 years, this sector will definitely make massive contributions to the growth of our GDP and economy. Again, the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) is monitoring the sector every moment to ensure the quality of the products.”

Rana Foods’ retail shop owner Abul Kalam Azad told The Independent that the revolution of hygiene foods has begun from the biscuits industry in Bangladesh. “Biscuits from various brands are available in our shop. These biscuits are 100 per cent hygienic, wrapped as they are in sealed packets.”  

Founded in 1979, Olympic Industries Ltd is the largest manufacturer, distributor and marketer of biscuits in Bangladesh.  

Olympic Industries general manager Quazi Touhiduzzaman said: “To ensure standards of hygiene and food safety, 35 to 40 factories are engaged in making automatic biscuits, entirely manufactured by automatic machines.”

“Biscuits are not made manually anymore. The automatic process has replaced the manual process to ensure food safety and standards,” Touhiduzzaman explained.  

The president of the Bangladesh Auto Biscuits and Bread Manufacturer’s Association noted that the packaging of the branded biscuits has developed dramatically in the past five to 10 years. Bhuiyan observed that it has the ability to attract all types of consumers.

EA

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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