The country's agro processors on Monday demanded a separate ministry for the agro processing sector to make it a major export earning source in next one decade.
They urged the government for infrastructural development to minimise post-harvest loss, which is 32-40 per cent in the country and worth Tk 200 billion annually.
They said these at a roundtable titled 'Roadmap for Promoting Food Processing in Bangladesh', organised by Bangladesh Agro Processors' Association (BAPA) in the capital.
Chairman of Karnal International Ltd Dr Md Saleh Ahmed presented the keynote, where he said agro processing is now covering 22 per cent of the country's total manufacturing sector, worth two per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Optimal agro climatic condition, strong corporate leadership, wide consumer base and demand are the key drivers for the industry. But low level of value addition is holding back the sector, it said.
Power supply shortage, high electricity tariff, declining arable land, and absence of efficient technologies are some challenges for the sector. As a result, Bangladeshi products are less competitive considering price and quality, the paper mentioned.
There exists a wide disparity between peak and lean period arrivals, usually ranging 100-150 per cent, which severely affects traders. Besides, control of market by a few players is also damaging the sector.
Apart from that, poor returns are discouraging farmers to opt for large-scale cultivation, it added.
Horticulture specialist Dr Abul Kashem said the agro processing sector needs a separate ministry, like in India, to develop a time-befitting industry.
He also emphasised ensuring reasonable prices for farmers' produces, which is a must for availability of adequate raw materials for the sector.BAPA President A F M Fakhrul Islam Munshi, while chairing the session, said agro business is considered a thrust sector. But it still lacks a separate agri business policy with a regulatory framework.
He also pointed out that there is no composite food industry in the country.
He opined that a separate ministry for the agro processors might help to flourish the sector even in the global arena.
Growth of local agro processing sector would result in value addition, crop diversification, shelf life enhancement of products, minimising post-harvest losses, ensuring safe foods, benefitting both farmers and consumers, and generating large-scale employment.
BAPA, at the roundtable, also demanded a 30 per cent incentive for agro exports, and lifting VAT and excise duty on imported materials used in manufacturing etc.
Additional secretary of Ministry of Agriculture, among others, also spoke on the occasion.
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