Export Potential for Bangladeshi Products to British Curry Industry

By Pasha Khondokar
President, Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA)

British Bangladeshi own more than eighty percent of the 3.6 billion pound valued UK curry industry. It satisfies with its various foods the appetite of the royal family as well as the mass. Back in 1960, these entrepreneurs, with their 12,000 restaurants, established the powerful organisation called Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA). Besides upholding the different interests of the people related to this industry, BCA played active role for Bangladesh in times of disaster like flood and cyclone like SIDR and assisted in various ways to make the Vision Bangladesh, a project of BRAC, effective. Recently, BCA held its Annual Award Ceremony and Gala Dinner at a five star hotel in Central London with presence of powerful ministers and MPs from the opposition.

ABDUL-MUNIMIn an exclusive interview, M. A. Munim, the newly elected General Secretary of BCA has spoken on problems and potential of the curry industry prevailing in the UK.

Q: How long had you been involved with the curry industry?

Munim: I am involved with the curry industry for last twenty years now. Very recently, I was elected the General Secretary of BCA and I take much pride in it. This industry has been established by our forefathers and lately it has achieved a tremendous growth. It is our duty to nurture it for further growth.

Q: How do you evaluate Bangladeshi Curry Industry at this hour of global economic recess?

Munim: This industry has started its journey during the late fifties and now over time, the business has grown in size and volume to be an inseparable part of the UK national economy. Though we are experiencing a tough time due to the worldwide economic recess, but yet, not only that we are catering career and job opportunities for over a hundred thousand people who are directly employed in the industry, we became a part of the existing British Culture. Nonetheless, we are going through hard times regarding the immigration limitations. But we are having dialogues with the government to sort a way out from this problem.

Q: What is the role the British Government playing in the development of the curry industry?

Munim: On an average about 2.5 million people in the UK regularly eats at restaurants owned by the Bangladeshis. We expect the government to come up with a way out to our existing problems. We could prosper on a regular pace if we do have the governmental cooperation. To ensure smooth growth, it is imperative for the business to enjoy VAT reduction as well as relaxation in the immigration laws is very urgent.

Q: Some say, Bangladesh has a huge export potential for the UK curry industry, do you agree?

Munim: I do not know if there is any other industry as huge as this curry industry in UK really exists in the world which is controlled solely by the Bangladeshis. Talk between Bangladeshi high officials and BCA leaders regarding huge export potential has been going on for quite a while. But I have not observed proper initiatives taken from the end of Bangladesh government for utilizing this potential. Depending on our curry industry, various Indian establishments are exploiting this opportunity and enjoying a monopoly in this sector. I am sure, if the government steps forward with a positive thinking for the growth of the business, we will always be there with them along with the collective power of these 12, 000 restaurants, with not only business opportunities but also as true patriots.

Q: Would you tell us a few words on recently held BCA Gala Dinner and Award Ceremony?

Munim: By rewarding the brilliant entrepreneurs of the new generation, we can inspire them. This year, we have awarded 11 curry restaurants besides 9 talented chefs of new generation. It would be a huge challenge for us to get these new generation entrepreneurs get involved into our curry business. We are hopeful that we would become successful in this regard.