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Speakers underline smart technology, trained human capital to boost agriculture

  • Published at 10:51 pm October 25th, 2018
web-A local agro-processing company
A local agro-processing company showcases their products at the three-day exposition on agro-processing products, held at Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC) in the city on Thursday Mahmud Hossain Opu/ Dhaka Tribune

Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed was the chief guest at the function

Speakers at an exposition of agro-processing products said Bangladesh should adopt the latest smart technology and develop human capital to enhance productivity and growth in the agriculture sector that employs nearly 62 million workers.

“Around 40% or 62 million workers are employed in the agriculture sector in Bangladesh, the single largest employer of the country. However, the sector’s contribution to GDP is only 14%. It is very low,” said Asian Development Bank country director for Bangladesh, Manmohan Parkash said on Thursday.

It means that productivity of agriculture needs to be enhanced. The agriculture sector should be enhanced by the use of modern technology, and agro-processing can add value to the crops and reduce post harvest losses, said Manmohan.  

He was speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the 6th BAPA Foodpro International Expo 2018, a three -day exposition on agro-processing products, held at Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC) in the city.

Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed was the chief guest at the function.

For the development of the agriculture and agro-processing industry, Manmohan urged the development of human capital as it needs more technical people equipped with modern technological knowledge. 

Investment in research and development in agricultural development is of paramount importance, he added.

Manmohan also called for encouraging entrepreneurs to adopt the latest smart technologies as it is critical to ensure quality, remain competitive, increase output, and reduce cost. 

Since most agricultural products are perishable, Bangladesh has to develop proper infrastructure such as warehouses and freezers. Besides, it will have to promote entrepreneurship by providing affordable financing, said Manmohan. 

“I know some owners of startups who came up with innovative ideas, but disappeared due to lack of funds. So, seed capital can be a solution to nurture startups, “he added.

A total of 188 companies from 15 countries participated in the expo and displayed various types of food products, and food processing and packaging items. The exposition will continue till October 27.

Tofail Ahmed said Bangladesh's export from agricultural products will touch the $2 billion mark in the next two years.

Bangladesh Agro Processors’ Association (BAPA) and Extreme Exhibition and Event Solution Ltd jointly organized the expo to showcase the success of Bangladesh and the prosperity of the agro-processing industry. 

 “Bangladesh has a good destination for producing agricultural products. Bangladesh ranked as the fourth largest country in fish farming, while it came in third for vegetable cultivation and seventh in potato production. The growth of agricultural products is very good,” said Tofail Ahmed.

In July-September of FY18, Bangladesh export earnings from agricultural goods was $147.90 million, which rose by 97.31% to 291.82 million in the same period of the current fiscal, said Ahmed. 

I hope within the next two years, the country’s export earnings from agricultural products will cross $2 billion, he added.    

“For joint venture and forging cooperation in the agro-processing sector, Bangladesh and India could work together to mutual benefit. But the key should be cooperation, not competition,” Indian High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla said.

He also said technological development can help grow the agriculture sector to new heights.

Being the largest food products supplier, we are also importing from Bangladesh and accepting test certificates for 21 products issued by the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) , he added.  

 “If the government provides the sector with policy support, we will be able to export agricultural products to the tune of $700 million to $7 billion a year,” said Bangladesh Agro-Processors’ Association (BAPA) President, AFM Fakhrul Islam Munshi. 

Agriculture is the driver of the economy and if the farmer gets the true price, the economy will march forward, he added.

BST Director General, Sardar Abul Kalam, urged agro processors to improve the  quality of products to grab the global market. 

Chairman of PRAN-RFL Group and the Fair Committee, Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, and Benoit Prefontaine, High Commissioner of Canada in Bangladesh, were present at the expo function. 

According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, Bangladesh earned $673.70 million in the last fiscal year from the export of agricultural products, which was 21.79% higher than the previous fiscal year.