Bangladesh wants to move fast in a coordinated way to explore opportunities in ‘Contract Farming,’ especially taking advantage of contract-farming space in the Middle East and greater African landscape for giving a boost to job creation abroad.
“I know that countries like Gambia, Sierra Leone, and the stretches of both the Maghreb and the Sub-Saharan Africa might be fertile areas to explore possibilities in this regard,” said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday.
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The Foreign Minister made the remarks at a lecture on “Contract Farming and Job Opportunity for Bangladesh Abroad” held at Bangabandhu Research Centre for Foreign Policy and Diplomacy (Foreign Service Academy).
Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad and State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam also spoke at the event while Ambassador Golam Moshi delivered a keynote speech.
He said it has been almost a decade that the government of Bangladesh commenced initiatives for leasing agricultural land in Africa.
A Fact-Finding Mission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs led by the then Foreign Secretary visited Ivory Coast, Latvia, Senegal and Ghana in 2010 to explore possibilities of contract farming in African countries.
The Fact-Finding Mission found that the production of rice, wheat, cotton, coffee etc. would be feasible and profitable for our investors in those countries, said Dr Momen.
Bangladesh initiated ‘Contract Farming’ in the African countries with the appointment of 11 Bangladeshi farmers in Zambia in 2016.
A Bangladeshi company, ‘Bhati Bangla Agritech’, received clearance from the government there to appoint 11 Bangladeshi farmers in agricultural projects of that African country.
Nitol-Niloy Group and Bhati Bangla Agritech Ltd had been working in some other African countries cultivating food grains.
Dr Momen said Bangladesh Ambassador in Kenya reported that Kenyan authorities were interested to provide about 1000 acres of land on lease to a financially competent Bangladeshi company for cotton cultivation.
In Sudan, he said, there is an area of 20 million hectares of land of which 40% are agricultural land. Bangladesh agricultural scientists may introduce suitable agricultural methods in Sudan.
“The Sudanese side has sought cooperation of Bangladesh for fabrication of fishing boats for catching fish in the Red Sea,” Dr Momen said.
In recent years, the Foreign Minister said, the government started actively considering expanding into markets abroad for participating in both global production and supply chain ecosystems.
Utilising the various bilateral and multilateral channels, Bangladesh started actively considering various farming options in the Middle East and in the greater African landscape.
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“We believe that sustainable agriculture does not only ensure the survival of our nation – it also opens the doors to prosperity, exchange and expansion of our national footprint across the globe,” said the Foreign Minister.
Asked about the safety of Bangladeshis in African countries, Dr Momen said Bangladeshis are so smart who go abroad and some 3 lakh Bangladeshis in African countries are managing the situation. “No worries about their safety. We’ll try to give them protection apart from the measures taken by the respective countries,” he said after the function.
Dr Momen said over the last decade, Bangladesh’s economy has grown with an average of 8.15%. Even in the year of the Covid-19, our growth hovered around.”
According to the Center For Economics & Banking Research, a London-based think-tank, Bangladesh is expected to be the 25th largest economy in the world by 2030 with a GDP of USD 1.2 trillion.
Dr Momen said agriculture has always been at the core of the Political-Economy manifesto of the Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Agricultural sector innovation, mechanism, extension and marketing received due import under the astute leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he said.
He said the Islamic Organisation for Food Security (IOFS) is one such organisation which they are actively contemplating to work with.
Bangladesh signed the statute in 2016 and was elected as a member of the executive committee for three years from the Asia group.
Bangladesh through the platform of IOFS can take some projects in African region for cultivating crops and agricultural products.
State Minister Shahriar Alam said the government has taken national policy giving the highest importance to agriculture.
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He said the government provides subsidies on fertiliser and distributes agricultural inputs free of cost over the last 12 years bringing huge success on the agricultural front and overall productivity.
The State Minister said they have still many things to do for long term security in the country and laid emphasis on coordination and quick decision on relevant proposals encouraging private sectors to come forward.
“We need to be more aggressive in dealing with proposals,” he said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is ready to play its role as part of a coordinated approach.