Algeria wants to expand trade ties with Bangladesh

As the Covid-19 situation is gradually improving in both Asia and Africa, Algeria is working hard on improving trade relations with Bangladesh in the coming days.

Rabah Larbi, ambassador of Algeria to Bangladesh, said this to Dhaka Tribune at his office in the capital recently.

“Trade relations with Bangladesh are below its potential. It needs to be increased as economies of both countries have been growing steadily over the years,” Larbi further said.

Sources at the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) said that Bangladesh exported goods worth $5.90 million to Algeria while Algeria exported goods worth $90.79 million to Bangladesh.

At present, Algeria imports jute and jute products, woven and knitwear, home textiles and footwear from Bangladesh. Apart from this, it imports a huge quantity of consumer goods, cereals, dairy products, plastics, medicines every year from the world market.

The North African country also has a huge potential market for man made filaments, glass and ceramics, leather goods, and electronics.

As gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Algeria is over $4,000 and Bangladesh is a developing country, the consumer markets in both countries are expanding, the African diplomat also said.

To increase bilateral trade, Bangladesh is expecting to sign either a free trade agreement (FTA) or a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Algeria, Larbi informed.

Quoting ADB statistics, Rabah Larbi said that Bangladesh is a prospective country with an emergence of new-middle and upper-middle-class consumers.

Several hundred Bangladesh citizens work in a fertilizer factory in Algeria, while some are also engaged in some other professions.

Backdrop

The Algerian government decided to reopen its embassy in Dhaka after the Embassy of Bangladesh was reopened in Algiers in 2016 for extending diplomatic presence in the region.

Bangladesh had earlier opened its diplomatic mission in Algiers in 1973, but it was closed in 1993.

Larbi recalled the historic visit of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to Algiers at the invitation of Algerian President Houari Boumedienne back in September 1973.

Business conditions in most African economies have improved significantly in the last 15 years, according to the World Bank business score for selected African economies.

The new value chains now developing are based on telecommunications platforms, agribusiness and energy.

The economies of Asia and African countries will do better during this century compared to the economies of the European Union and North American countries, Larbi told this correspondent.

Meanwhile, Turkish denim manufacturer Taypa Teksil, supplier to brands including Levi’s and Calvin Klein, invested over  $800 million in what it says will be the largest textile facility in Algeria, according to multiple news reports out of Turkey and North Africa.

“As Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of readymade garments to the world market, the country can explore the possibility of setting up high-end green industries in Algeria to tap the European markets," he opined.

Potential

To strengthen bilateral trade and economic ties, an agreement was signed between Bangladesh and Algeria in 1973. Now, both the countries have opportunities to increase trading, the envoy said quoting Commerce Minister of Bangladesh Tipu Munshi.

The commerce minister said, "Algeria is a friend of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is keen to increase trade and economic cooperation with Algeria."

As there are opportunities to increase trade between the countries, any aspect of the 1973 agreement will accordingly be revised if it seems necessary, said Tipu Munshi.

Addressing the issue of contract farming in Algeria, he said both Dhaka and Algiers can explore the possibility of working on the issue with Dhaka.

Bangladesh is looking for ways to sign a framework with potential African countries to explore untapped contract farming opportunities and identify particular countries in Africa for initiating a pilot project.

An inter-ministerial meeting co-chaired by Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzaq and Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on taking lands one lease in African countries for contract farming by Bangladeshi entrepreneurs was held at the Foreign Service Academy last week.

The meeting was attended by the Executive Chairman, BIDA, Foreign Secretary (Senior Secretary), representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Commerce and Foreign Affairs, representatives of the Armed Forces Division, the Prime Minister Office and Bangladesh Bank.

The meeting focused on identifying ways and means for establishing contract farming in African countries by Bangladeshi farmers and entrepreneurs.

The Foreign Minister said by leasing land in the African countries, employment opportunities may be created for a very large number of Bangladeshi workers and farmers.

The Foreign Minister also suggested that exchange of training on agriculture may be made with the African countries to make them familiar with our advancements made in the field of agriculture.

The agriculture minister said since Bangladesh has a huge population, contract farming could be a viable source of creation of employment abroad.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the agricultural sector in Algeria accounted for 12% of the country’s GDP in 2016 and employs about 20% of the Algerian population.

As a part of its effort to boost the agricultural sector, Algeria is offering incentives on taxes, including farming concessions, and free long-term leases of farmland to foreign investors and local counterparts. Owing to such favorable legislative policies, many private agricultural firms are coming forward to invest in the agricultural sector.

The government policies and programs to increase domestic production, privatization of the seed sector, and investment in agricultural infrastructure are the major drivers of the growth of the market studied.

The African country has been revolutionizing its technology sector in the field of agriculture, by adopting soil-less farming. Farmers are adopting hydroponic techniques to increase vegetable production. Hence all these factors contribute towards increased production of fruits in the country.

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