May 2015—A 2014 Russian trade embargo on Moldovan fruits has become a catalyst for the latter country to reorient exports to new markets. For a whole day in February, the hot economic news in Moldova was the country’s initial shipment of apples to Bangladesh, the first time a Moldovan food product had found a market in that part of South Asia.
For many Moldovan fruit producers, it was a clear indication of new market opportunities and a validation of the importance of marketing and trade assistance from the Agricultural Competitiveness and Enterprise Development (ACED) project, a joint program between USAID and the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation.
With U.S. support, two 20-ton containers of Jonagold and Golden apples made the five-week, 8,000-kilometer journey in December 2014. The buyer in Bangladesh, a food wholesaler, said the apples arrived in good condition and sold out within three days.
“This was a successful sales deal, and the buyer was satisfied with our product,” said Yeahia Mir, a Bangladesh-born businessman whose trading company, Mobile SRL, arranged the shipment of the apples to his home country. “For the past 40 years, I have lived and worked in Moldova, and the Bangladeshi food market was something which I didn’t know too much about. Despite a lack of knowledge, things have gone well for us thanks to crucial assistance from USAID.”
Mir estimates Bangladesh's annual consumption of apples at 145,000 tons. The Asian nation with a population of 166 million people imports apples mainly from its neighbors India and China as well as from South Africa and Brazil.
Breaking into a new market is daunting. USAID assisted Mir through all stages of the process, from organizing visits with Moldovan apple producers to providing information on export certification procedures, prices and payment conditions.
“Before I made up my mind, ACED showed me several cold storages. I was able to discuss the conditions with the growers, and then ACED helped with the logistical arrangements,” said Mir.
Bangladeshi customers have expressed interest in buying 100 more containers this season alone.
“Based on this experience, I am looking forward to sending more apples to Bangladesh,” said Mir. “I have two advantages—the taste of Moldovan apples, which is great, and the vast competence of the USAID ACED team, whose support can turn a novice in the food trade into a thriving enterprise.”
The ACED program, which runs from 2011 to 2016, is designed to help the agriculture sector in Moldova improve the production and marketing of high-value crops.
Last updated: May 28, 2015