Delay in land acquisition puts API projects in limbo

Mahmuda Shaolin
Uncertainty looms large over setting up the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) park for manufacturing raw materials for medicine due to delay in acquiring land at the proposed site at Munshiganj.

The executive committee of the national economic council (ECNEC) last year approved the API at an overall project cost of Tk 2.13 billion, officials of Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (BAPI) said.

“We are very much upset as the government could not acquire land for establishment of the park as of February 2009,” Nazmul Hassan, Secretary General of BAPI told the FE Tuesday.

The selected site for the API on a 300-acre land at Munshiganj district is a piece of land lying below 10 feet of water, and it is not easy to acquire the land from people and it will also time consuming to fill the site, he also said.

“We hope, the government will choose any alternative raised land like Chittagong or Adamjee or Export Processing Zone (EPZ) as the country is now enjoying a special benefit to export drugs to all over the world under a World Trade Organisation (WTO) deal, he added.

The WTO’s Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement signed in 2002 has allowed all the least developed countries (LDCs) to export patent-free drugs to anywhere in the world between 2006 and 2016.

Among the 49 LDCs, Bangladesh has the strongest base to manufacture pharmaceutical products, although the country hardly has any raw material production facilities.

Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) has been assigned to set up the park to implement the project for facilitating production of basic raw materials for the rapidly growing drug industry in the country, an official said, adding the project is expected to be completed by 2011.

The corporation will develop the infrastructure with state-of-the-art facilities including a central effluent treatment plant (ETP) and incinerator for solid and liquid waste management.

After completion of infrastructure development, a total of 40 industrial plots will be allocated to individual companies for setting up API plants. The park will be operated through a public-private partnership.

Bangladesh’s more than 100 pharmaceutical plants last year imported medicine raw materials worth over Tk 15 billion. According to the BAPI, the country can save at least 70 per cent of the amount by producing raw materials at the API Park.

“The country’s pharmaceutical industry could perform better in the export market to boost the country’s export earning from the pharmaceutical sector if the facilities for the production of basic raw materials were ensured,” said an official of the country’s leading pharmaceutical.

The park would transform the industry as a major export earner. It is impossible to be competitive in the international medicine market if a company doesn’t produce its own raw materials, he said.

Bangladesh exported drugs worth $43 million last year, but the figure would double this year, provided the authorities remove the export barriers, sources said.

More than a dozen drug makers shipped medicines worth US$18.94 million to 72 nations in the six months to December, which was $23.63 million during the same period last year, according to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).