Bangladesh must use new technology to retain growth in agriculture, analysts said yesterday.
It is important to treat agriculture as a growth driver, develop marketing infrastructure for farm produces and ensure price incentives for farmers, they said at a discussion on agriculture and structural transformation.
At the same time, the country will have to take preparations to compete in a global market, they said.
Centre for Policy Dialogue and DFID-ESRC Growth Research Programme organised the discussion at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel.
"Agriculture was never taken into consideration as a growth driver," said Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive director of Power and Participation Research Centre.
Agriculture was used only to ensure food security, he said. He gave examples from Denmark that transformed its agriculture sector as an economic growth driver.
"Agricultural marketing has not been prioritised, while investment in the area is insignificant.”
Government investment in fisheries and livestock is also low, he added. "In fisheries, we can become a global leader."
M Osman Farruk, a former education minister, said, "We need a quantum jump in agricultural production function.” He also emphasised the cultivation of higher value crops.
Stepphen Wiggins, a research fellow of Agricultural Development Policy at Overseas Development Institute UK, said rapid growth in agricultural productivity is possible.
"Agricultural growth in low income countries is most effective in reducing poverty and hunger."
Quazi Shahabuddin, a professorial fellow at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, said, “The agriculture sector has already gone through a major transformation.”
He stressed the need to increase productivity of livestock and fisheries at a rate that is greater than the demand growth.
MM Akash, a professor of economics at Dhaka University, said progress made through a green revolution has already reached its frontier.
New types of technologies, including seed varieties, are needed to boost agricultural production, he added.
Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said Bangladesh has lost farm lands due to urbanisation and other reasons in the past decades.
The government plans to initiate projects where four-storey buildings will be built in villages to house families that he said would curb reduction in agricultural lands.
Amenities, such as parks, markets, schools and other facilities, will be set up in a way that farm lands are available for cultivation, he added.
Referring to plans to establish compact townships in rural areas, Sajjad Zohir, a research director of Economic Research Group, stressed the need for digitisation of land records.
Prof Md Rafiqul Hoque, vice chancellor of Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, said changes need to be brought about in agriculture, including mechanisation.
On the losses incurred by potato growers for falling prices, he called for policy support to growers.
"This is a burning issue." he said. "Farmer will refuse to grow potato next year."
CPD Executive Director Mustafizur Rahman stressed the need to prepare Bangladesh's agriculture sector for the global market.