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Farmer-friendly technology stressed for materializing smart agriculture: speakers

by The Bangla Herald

Speakers at a seminar today said adoption of farmers’ friendly technology as well as low-cost locally manufactured devices and database, ensuring competitive prices and necessary policy support to farmers would help materialize building ‘Smart Agriculture’ in Bangladesh.

They said adoption of smart agriculture practices like precision agriculture could potentially increase agricultural productivity by 20 to 30 percent, reduce input costs by up to 20 percent and increase farmers’ income by 30 to 40 percent.

The speakers came up with such remarks at a seminar on “Smart Agriculture: Issues and Challenges in Value Chain Development” organised by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) at its auditorium in the capital today.

Speaking at the seminar as the chief guest, State Minister for Commerce Ahasanul Islam Titu said a full functioning one-point service desk would be established at DCCI soon to provide online IRC and ERC issuance facilities to the importers and exporters.

“By the end of this year, all services of Registrar of Joint Stock Companies (RJSC) will also be paperless,” he further informed.

Titu also emphasized on a need-based locally tailored farmers-friendly technology to implement smart agriculture in the country.

It is equally important to ensure better and logical prices of produces both for producers and consumers and for that he underscored the need for a smooth supply chain process including adequate organized commodity markets across the country, the state minister said.

He also said that standardization and certification process would ensure better and genuine product specifying the exact origin of variety.

The state minister for Commerce also informed that the Logistic Policy-2024 is going to be a game-changer for the businessmen. He reiterated the need for ICT backed research and innovation to bring in more diversification in the product basket.

While speaking as special guest, Md. Shamsul Arefin, secretary of Information and Communication Technology Division, said: “For smart agriculture, we need to make our farmers or producers smart at fast.”

He also stressed on smart innovation, research and development and a strong knowledge-based economy in the agriculture sector.

“Without smart government, no other sector can be smart…Smart citizen and skilled government officers, having good human attribute, honesty and integrity, will help the government to be smart,” he added.

DCCI President Ashraf Ahmed said: “From the farmers to the consumers, we see at least 40-45 percent post-harvest loss.”

Noting that logistic chain and market chain are two very important but separate challenges, he said to mitigate post-harvest losses, cool-chain and smoother transportation system are necessary.

“Moreover, we should develop a waste management system so that we can recycle the agriculture wastages into other product,” he added.

Ashraf also termed inefficiencies in the supply chain, market access barriers and limited value addition as few bottlenecks for accelerating value chain development in Bangladesh’s agriculture sector.

“But, our mobile financial service (MFS) network in Bangladesh is impressively strong and if we want we can get the subsidy to the hand of farmers directly through MFS within a short time,” he added.

He also emphasized for an updated database to create a smart agriculture environment.

Malik Talha Ismail Bari, senior vice-president of the DCCI, in his welcome remarks said, in recent decades, Bangladesh has made a significant stride in agricultural development. “But, climate change poses a severe threat, with increasing frequency of floods, cyclones and droughts that disrupt agricultural productivity a lot.”

Fahad Ifaz, co-founder and CEO of iFarmer Limited, presented the first keynote paper on “Opportunities of Frontier Tech Automation in Agro Value Chain”.

He highlighted that frontier technology in agriculture can reduce information asymmetries for farmers, facilitate greater access to market and services, reduce cost, reduce climate impact, improve yielding.

According to McKinsey and Company, frontier technology in agriculture could potentially add US$500 billion to world GDP by 2030, he added.

Mohammad Sakib Khaled, senior manager (programme) of Swisscontact presented another keynote paper on “Addressing Key Issues and Challenges of Smart Agricultural Value Chain”.

In order to fight against the climate change, a massive transformation of agriculture sector is needed, he said, adding: “Local investment in the livestock sector is increasing in Bangladesh and in next 10-year it will be doubled.”

Sakib noted limited supply of quality inputs, lack of good agricultural practices, post-harvest losses, climate vulnerability, lack of integrated supply chain and lack of policy implementation are responsible for the overarching gaps in the agriculture value chain.

In the panel discussion, National Senior Lead Agronomist Md. Abdul Kader, FAO Representation in Bangladesh, Vice-president of BSAFE Foundation and Former Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture Anwar Faruque, Additional Director of Agricultural Credit Department in Bangladesh Bank (BB) Dr. Md. Abu Bakkar Siddique, Chief Executive Officer Aqualink Bangladesh Limited Sayed Rizban Hussain, CEO & Founder of Win Incorporate Dr. Kashfia Ahmed, Founder/CEO Dr. Chashi Incorporation Medina Ali, Director & CEO of Kranti Associates Limited Dr. Muhammad Risalat Siddique took part and shared their views.

The speakers emphasized for low cost farmers-friendly locally manufactured device and database, ensuring competitive price for the farmers and policy support to implement smart agriculture. They also urged for good agricultural practice (GAP) and utilizing ICT for commercial farming.

DCCI Vice-president Md. Junaed Ibna Ali and members of the Board of Directors were present, among others, during the event.

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