The cooperative societies combined with the latest technologies have worked well in the development of agriculture in Thailand and Bangladesh can follow that model to develop this sector here, said experts and officials at a webinar.
"There are many opportunities for cooperative society-based work in agriculture. Our Agriculture will be profitable if we can do it. Thailand has made much progress in this regard. We have to use their strategy," said Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque at the webinar on "Ecommerce in Agriculture Sector for Rural Development and Transformation: Sharing Experiences of Thailand" Tuesday night.
"Many cooperative societies have been formed since independence. However, due to lack of good governance and leadership, the cooperative societies in Bangladesh are not doing much," said Mohammad Abdur Razzaque who was the chief guest at the programme.
"We are emphasising mechanisation in agriculture for sustainable development in this sector," he added.
The France Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIFB) and the Centre for Integrated Rural Development for Asia and Pacific (Cirdap) in collaboration with the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) jointly organised the webinar, where The Business Standard was a media partner.
At the programme, Chai Kongkaew, director of Agriculture Sector Cooperatives and Farmer Groups, Development Division, Cooperative Promotion Department, Thailand, presented one of the two keynote papers, elaborating how Thailand is making progress in agriculture.
He said there are 6,600 cooperative societies in Thailand, 3,000 of which are agriculture-based.
The farmers who become members of the cooperative societies produce paddy, fish, fruits, vegetables, and other goods. They sell their products to the cooperatives societies, which sells the products to wholesalers, retailers and middlemen after processing and packaging. In the end, retailers sell the products to buyers.
In this way, the product quality is maintained, the farmers get a fair price for their produce, and the buyers also get crops and vegetables at a fair price.
The Cooperative Promotion Department of Thailand is training farmers on product development, digital platforms, and online marketing. It is creating links between the government and various non-governmental business organisations.
Mr Chai Kongkaew said, "We improve products and guide the farmers to create new products. We value food safety and give certificates for it. Good agricultural practice (GAP) is maintained at the societies and good manufacturing practice (GMP) certificate is given."
There are two websites in Thailand– coop-mart.com and coopshopth.com – where farmers of selected cooperative societies sell their products.
Mr Chai Kongkaew said e-commerce is working as a turning point for cooperative societies. It enables the consumers to contact the manufacturers directly. Products' market value has increased in e-commerce since 2015. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the buying and selling of products online. For this reason, Thailand has taken a project to give logistic support to the entrepreneurs.
Last year the Cooperative Promotion Department of Thailand took a special project, under which their Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) is providing necessary assistance to the product manufacturers and the Ministry of Commerce is assisting in their marketing.
They are creating a website through which various organisations including hotels and restaurants will be able to buy fresh food wholesale from the cooperative societies.
Chai Kongkaew said, "Bangladesh could follow Thailand's model, but the cooperation of the private sector along with government support is necessary for this. It will also be necessary to involve the people."
A special guest at the webinar Md Mashiur Rahman, secretary of Rural Development Cooperative Division said, "We have brought the Internet to the rural level. Farmers need to be given ideas about technology, so they can offer their products on online platforms."
"Farmers need to be organised through cooperative societies, which we are promoting. The Bangladesh government is working to create a digital trade country," he said.
Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh said the government is working to create a strong online platform for buying and selling goods in Bangladesh. Care is being taken to ensure that buyers are not deceived.
Dr FH Ansarey, managing director of ACI Limited, also presented a keynote paper on the condition of e-commerce in the agriculture sector in Bangladesh.
Syed Mahmudul Huq, president of CCIFB, Dr Cherdsak Virapat, director-general of CIRDAP, Dr Voraprapa Nakavachara, assistant to the President for Global Engagement at Chulalongkorn University, Dr Sommarat Chantarat, a development economist at Ungpakorn Institute for Economic Research, Thailand, also spoke at the event.
Rezwanul Haque Jami, head of e-commerce, a2i Program, ICT Division, Waseem Alim, co-founder and chief executive officer chaldal.com, Md Abdul Wahed Tomal, secretary-general of e-CAB, among others, also participated in the webinar.