Agro-processing industry is still lagging behind despite an increase in agricultural production, noted experts at an event on Wednesday.
Total production in the agricultural sector has increased six times although its contribution to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined. However, there is scope for a significant increase in agricultural exports if agro-products can be processed industrially, they said at a seminar on "Bangabandhu's dream: Transformation of agro-based economy".
As chief guest, Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque said the incumbent government has made remarkable achievements in agricultural production. But the transformation of an agro-based economy will not take place if agriculture cannot be industrialised through advancement in processing and adding value to the products.
"The market for agricultural products needs to be tapped and expanded locally and internationally. For this, the agriculture sector needs to increase its relationship with industrialisation," he also said.
Planning Minister MA Mannan presided over the seminar organised by the planning division at the National Economic Council (NEC) conference room in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka.
Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim said many countries are earning foreign exchange exporting seaweed and there is also high demand for tuna fish all over the world.
"We also have the opportunity to tap that export potential. The government has taken several initiatives for deep sea tuna fishing," he said.
"Farmers here have already started farming eels and crabs commercially as there is a demand for eels and crabs in a number of countries, including China," he added.
Md Mofidul Islam, head of General Economics Division, Planning Commission, delivered the keynote address.
According to the keynote paper, the agro-processing industry is evolving and is in the process of transforming the agro-based economy. However, exports are moving at a very slow pace.
In financial year 2019-20, the export of agricultural products was $1,061 million, which was $1,052 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year.
State Minister for planning, Dr Shamsul Alam, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), Prof Shahidur Rashid Bhuiyan, Vice Chancellor of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, and Dr Binayak Sen, director general of Bangladesh Development Research Institute, spoke as panelists.