The food value chain must be strengthened in order to ensure a fair price for agricultural products, said Minister of Agriculture, Muhammad Abdur Razzaque.
The Minister was speaking at a webinar titled "Food Value Chain in the Post-Covid-19," organised by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) on Sunday.
Stressing on agricultural mechanisation, the Agriculture Minister said, "Bangladesh has potential in processing agricultural products. The use of advanced technology will add value to this product, making the sector profitable."
In line with public-private investments, the sector will get foreign investments as well, he added.
Two acres of land have been allotted in Purbachal for further expansion of the agro-processing sector. This will also be the site for an agricultural processing centre and a state-of-the-art laboratory.
According to the Agriculture Minister, this food processing entity will play a key supporting in boosting the international market for processed food.
While presenting the keynote, M Borhan Uddin, professor of Food Technology and Rural Industry at Bangladesh Agricultural University, said, "Institutional and policy support is insufficient to develop an agriculture-based food value chain."
Emphasis should be placed on contract farming to strengthen the value chain, he added.
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has recently agreed to slash duties on raw cashew imports from about 90% to 5-7%, said Abdur Razzaque, at the event.
"In future, we plan on making cashew import entirely duty-free. Initiatives have also been undertaken to popularise cashew cultivation in the country," he added.
He said, "Some 50,000 cashew saplings have been distributed amongst farmers this year. The Ministry has also assisted private entrepreneurs in importing about 5 tonnes of hybrid cashew seeds from Cambodia, from which it will be possible to produce about 6 lakh saplings."
In his welcome address, DCCI President Shams Mahmud said that the food value chain of our country has constraints, including lack of modern technology-based manufacturing systems, lack of capital, lack of product storage, weak infrastructure, among others.
He proposed creating an online platform for the production and marketing of agricultural products.
Mahmud also stressed on taking initiatives to cultivate crops on about 2.23 lakh hectares of fallow land across the country and inspire private sector and foreign investment to create new marketplaces for agricultural products.
A fair product price cannot be ensured without a functional supply chain, said Md Iqtadul Haque, the general secretary of Bangladesh Agro-Processing Association.
"Farmers need to be informed about the domestic demand for certain products at the start of the season," he said.
Farmers will then be able to grow products on a priority basis to cater to domestic demand. By extension, the products can be exported after fulfilling local demand, he added.