Businesses should focus on value-added organic products to get a sizeable share in the US$90 billion global green food market, sector experts said at a seminar on Tuesday.
Considering the growing demand for organic foods and products, the government should also review its agricultural and commercial policies giving priority to green foods, they added.
The Bangladesh Agro-based Product Producers and Merchants Association (BAPMA) in association with the help of Agro Products Business Promotion Council (APBPC) under the commerce ministry organised the seminar styled 'Diversified Use of Agro Products and Value Addition at Global Standard Level in Bangladesh for Economic Benefits' at the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) conference room in the city.
Speaking as the chief guest, Commerce Secretary Shubhashish Bose said the country has put especial emphasis on organic products which has been reflected in the organic farming policy 2016.
He observed that local entrepreneurs should set up juice plants to maximise value addition.
Citing an example, he said 'Taiwan Food Ltd.', a foreign company, is producing canned juice of pineapple and other fruits in Bangladesh and exporting them.
FBCCI President Md Shafiul Islam (Mohiuddin) said the demand for organic foods has been at its highest for more than a decade.
The economic meltdown in 2008-09 even couldn't hit its growth (18-20 per cent) in the global arena, he added.
He also said the country has a long tradition of organic farming as 90 per cent of farmland was under green cover before the 1980s.
He said it could be somewhat easy for us to reintroduce green farming involving both local researchers and experienced farmers.
The country should also be aware of negative impacts of genetically modified (GMO) foods, he said, adding that global seed and pesticide giants like Monsanto and Bayer are now in a war to capture the seed markets of countries like Bangladesh.
"We should learn about the experiences of Indian farmers who are suffering a lot for using GMO cotton," he said.
"The EU countries imposed a ban on food products imported from the USA as it largely grows GMO crops," he added.
The FBCCI president also urged the food directorate to ensure that GMO wheat cannot enter the country.
Additional Secretary to the commerce ministry and coordinator of APBPC SM Rezwanul Hossain said his ministry has formed seven councils on different sectors to promote and diversify businesses. More than 3,000 farmers and entrepreneurs have been trained under the APBPC and most of them have turned into investors, he said.
He also said local entrepreneurs are going to export processed jackfruits within December this year under a pilot project.
Presenting the keynote paper, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) principal scientific officer Dr Md Khurshid Alam said the global organic market grew to $90 billion in 2017 from $30 billion in 2004.
Organic farmland also increased to 57.8 million hectares from 14.9 million hectares during the period, he said, adding that organic farming depends on four factors -- health, ecology, fairness and care.
He said the major criterion of organic farming is maintaining the buffer zone and that the hilly region of the country can easily meet the requirement for the zone.
FBCCI director and vice-chairman of APBPC SM Jahangir Hossain said maximising value addition also could help capitalising on more exports.
He said a jackfruit could be sold at Tk 1000 by adding value to it, which, is being sold at Tk 100 now.
Using the dehydration process of pineapple, one kg of the fruit could be shipped at Tk 300 against the normal price of Tk 20, he added.
He said "We could raise our agro product export earning by 20 times if the existing products could be turned into organic products."
BAPMA secretary Kazi Golam Ali Sumon moderated the seminar, with its president Mohd Ruhul Amain in the chair.
FBCCI vice president Muntakim Ashraf and CEO of super chain Unimart Ltd. Murtoza Zaman also spoke.
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