Despite making tremendous progress in agro production, lack of a modern marketing system and food processing facilities still remained impediments to fully attaining agricultural sustainability in Bangladesh, experts said.
They said prudent policies, food processing research, commercialising agro-products, strengthening a value chain, implementing food safety regulation and reducing the communication gap between exporters and contract farmers are needed to expedite development in this sector.
They made the observations on Wednesday at a national policy dialogue on 'Enabling Environment for Agricultural Innovation', held under the 'Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems (CDAIS)' project.
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) and the Ministry of Agriculture jointly organised the event at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the capital.
Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Finance, Dr Md Abdur Razzaque, addressed the programme as the chief guest.
FAO's deputy representative in Bangladesh David W Doolan and first secretary of European Union (EU) delegation in Bangladesh Manfred Fernholz were also present at the programme, chaired by BARC Executive Chairman Dr Kabir Ikramul Haque.
In his speech, Abdur Razzaque said Bangladesh became self-sufficient in production of cereal which fulfils basic food demand.
However, the country still has a long way to go to ensure food and nutrition security for its people, he noted.
He stated that food security depends on three components - availability of food, access to food and proper processing and application of nutritious food.
The government has ensured availability of food in the country but it is a matter of concern whether all people have access or ability to buy that food, said the former food and disaster management minister.
To ensure the people's access to food, the government has been continuing vulnerable group feeding (VGF), test relief (TR) and food for work (kajer binimoye khaddo-Kabikha) under social safety net programmes, he mentioned.
"The challenge is to ensure food safety and raising people's awareness about eating nutritious food," he said.
Razzaque said in recent years the country has been seeing surplus production in poultry, fish and milk.
But the farmers aren't getting fair prices for their surplus production as the country still lacks food processing capacity, he said.
Talking about lack of innovation in the country's agriculture, he said: "It's not true that the farmers of the country aren't innovative, they are quite innovative ... the problem lies in marketing strategy and processing."
Addressing the programme, Manfred Fernholz said around 50 per cent of the US $700 million given or pledged to Bangladesh by the EU within 2014 to 2020 is meant for ensuring food and nutrition security.
Emphasising on taking a holistic approach for food security, he said apart from strengthening food value chain, EU has been working on attaining sustainability in food and nutrition security in the country.
The CDAIS project is focused on the development of five agricultural products - fish, poultry, tomato, mango and pineapple.
Talking about the project, CDAIS country project manager Dr Nasreen Sultana told the FE, regarding export of mango, contract farmers are not getting fair prices for their produce due to a communication gap with the exporters, use of unregulated chemicals and lack of preservation.
She noted that specific licensing for each type of poultry business is needed to ensure that the prices of day-old chicks, feed and medicine remained within the buying capacity of the poultry sector entrepreneurs.
To boost fish export, Dr Sultana said good aquaculture practice is a must to enter international market.
The FAO in collaboration with BARC and Agrinatura, a European consortium of agricultural researchers and universities, is implementing the CDAIS project in Bangladesh.
The project aims at improving the capacity of value chain actors, enabling environment to promote agricultural innovation to improve rural livelihoods and income.
CDAIS is a global project funded by the European Union (EU) that has been in implementation phase in eight countries.
Additional Secretary of Agriculture Ministry Md Nazrul Islam and CDAIS lead technical officer Dr Karin Nichterlein also attended the programme.
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