Bangladesh frozen food sector faces $ 58 mln loss

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DHAKA, Nov 26 (Reuters) Bangladesh's frozen food industry, the country's second-largest foreign exchange earner, may suffer an estimated loss of up to 4 billion taka (58 million dollars) after a cyclone that killed thousands of people, exporters said today.

''As per our assessment, we will incur a loss of 3 to 4 billion taka,'' Kazi Belayet Hossain, president of Bangladesh Frozen Food Exporters' Association, said.

Category 4 Cyclone Sidr hit the impoverished country's vast coastline, with winds of 250 kph and a 5-metre high water surge from the Bay of Bengal on November 15, leaving a trail of devastation.

Shrimp farmers usually receive loans from shrimp exporters and are committed to sell their products to the exporters. The farmers will not be able to sell their products to the exporters now as the cyclone washed away nearly 30 percent of the country's shrimp farms.

''We need interest-free bank loans so that we can provide more loans to the farmers,'' Belayet told Reuters. ''Additionally, the government should offer direct support to the farmers immediately.'' The frozen food industry earned 515 million dollars from exports in the year to June 2007.

Cyclone Sidr, the deadliest storm to hit the country in one and a half decades, also hit rice paddy, livestock, fisheries, trees and vegetables in the country's south and southwestern coastal areas.

Bangladesh's army-backed interim authority, which took charge in January following widespread political unrest, said it would use all available resources to tackle the cyclone's aftermath.

Meanwhile, the government has decided to provide 1.3 billion taka in loans to cyclone-hit small traders and fishermen and livestock and poultry farmers.

REUTERS ARB BST1113

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