Policymakers and businesses on Sunday stressed the need for adopting technology and developing efficient value chain in agriculture and agro-processing sectors to attract foreign direct investment.
The country lags behind in marketing of agricultural products, adoption of technology and building up digital ecosystems in the sector despite strong agricultural outputs, they said at a virtual meeting on ‘FDI in priority sectors: value-added agriculture processing, digital ecosystems and green capital’.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham) arranged the programme in Dhaka.
Prime minister’s adviser on private sector industry and investment Salman F Rahman said that improved standards of agricultural products and agro-processing foods would be one of the important enabler in attracting FDI in the sectors.
Domestic market of the products is also huge and now the important thing is to ensure proper investment in total value chain, including in logistics, supply chain and distribution, to ensure fair price for producers.
Local and foreign investors should work together to grab the market of halal foods as the global market of halal foods is increasing exponentially, he said.
Investors from both the United States and Bangladesh can work together to identify the areas of cooperation in these sectors, particularly in agro-processing.
He said that waste management was a big problem the country was now facing and green capital might solve the problem in waste management, including recycling of waste from sectors such as plastic, IT and pharmaceuticals.
Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) executive chairman Mohammad Sirazul Islam said that framing policy and talking about it would not be enough to attract foreign investors as they wanted effective implementation of the polices.
AmCham president Syed Ershad Ahmed said that only verbal assurance of policymakers and framing rules and laws would not allure FDI into the country.
Focus should be on an effective implementation of polices and rationalisation of corporate tax structure for attract more FDI in knowledge-based economy, he said.
Inadequate infrastructure and implementation inefficiency have made Bangladesh less attractive for FDI at least for the time being amid the COVID-19, he said.
Citibank Bangladesh country officer Shekar N Rajashekaran said that nobody knew about how big the agricultural market of Bangladesh which was the fourth largest rice producer and the fifth largest vegetable producing country in the world.
PepsiCo Bangladesh country manager Debasish Deb said that they started agricultural business, including selling seeds, farm machinery and setting up a mini-tuber production in tissue culture lab, in Bangladesh with local partner finding that the country had a strong agricultural economy.
SBK Tech Venture founder Sonia Bashir Kabir said that lack of technology and ecosystem was now a major impediment to the agriculture sector.
There are only three agritech startups in Bangladesh compared with 450 in India, she said.
Agritech, along with fintech, has a huge growth potential, she said, adding that there was lack of talents to run startups due to absence of proper mentorship programme.
US deputy chief of mission at Bangladesh embassy JoAnne Wagner also identified weak supply chain and inadequate storage facility as the major problems in agriculture and agro-processing industries.
US investors have identified a number of sectors, including agro-processing, ICT, light engineering and tourism, to invest in Bangladesh, she said.
She also emphasised image building of the country for attracting FDI.
AmCham vice-president Syed Mohammad Kamal, USTDA senior regional representative for South Asia at US embassy in India Mehnaz Ansari and International Finance Corporation senior country officer Nuzhat Anwar, among others, spoke at the programme.
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