Dhaka, May 6 (UNB) - The government plans to introduce fortified rice or ‘Pushti Chaal’ to help people overcome micronutrients deficiency.
The modification of regular rice with added micronutrients can eliminate the existing nutrition deficiency and ensure a better result in terms of public health, experts suggest.
A majority of Bangladesh’s population suffers from the deficiency of micronutrients such as zinc, iron, folic acid and other essential vitamins.
Each 150-300 gram of Pushti Chaal contains 1.5 ppm Vitamin A, 4.0 ppm Vitamin B1, 0.01 ppm Vitamin B12, 1.3 ppm Folic Acid, 60 ppm Iron and 40 ppm Zinc.
Bangladesh, with support from World Food Programme (WFP), started the rice fortification project in 2013 after an icddr,b research showed that a large part of the population suffers from various diseases due to lack of micronutrients.
Initially, 30,000 people were provided with Pushti Chaal.
Dr Mohammad Mahbobor Rahman, Senior Programme Officer of Scaling-Up Rice Fortification Initiative, told UNB that so far two million people in 96 upazilas have experienced the positive effect of fortified rice as part of Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) project.
“Researches done by several institutes show that the use of fortified rice is much beneficial to the health of the participants in those areas,” he said.
A survey by BRAC found that 32 percent consumers of fortified rice has perceived health benefits while another research carried out by icddr,b shows that consumption of fortified rice reduced anemia by 4.8 percent.
“We picked rice for bridging the nutrition gap as it’s our staple food and can be made available countrywide,” Dr Rahman said.
The process of fortification is fairly simple as grained white rice is made into rice flour in which essential minerals and vitamins are added. The flour is later given shape to rice kernel and then added to normal rice with a ratio of 1:100 kernels.
“The ratio of mixture is one fortified kernel of rice for 100 normal rice kernels,” Dr Rahman explained.
The mixing processes are carried out by three companies currently – Igloo, Masafi Agro Foods and Star Foods. The project so far has more than 30 blending units and adequate fortified kernel factories.
The original plan was pitched by WFP back in 2013 for combating the nutrition deficiency.
WFP Deputy Country Director Alpha Bah told UNB that the organisation is currently giving its full support for scaling up rice fortification in the country.
“We’re mainly providing technical assistance for the entire project,” he said.
Alpha Bah said the goal is to provide fortified rice at an affordable price to all, especially the working class who are the main victims of nutrition deficiency.
At a national-level discussion on the fortified rice project, Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder said the government is taking measures to introduce the fortified rice in the local market soon.
Currently, the rice is being given to poor families at maximum 30 kg rice for each family.
After the initial commercial launch, Pushti Chaal will cost about Tk 3-4 more per kg compared to other rice. But the price will decrease once it gains the customers’ confidence.
Dhaka, May 4 (UNB) – Universities in Bangladesh should formulate curricula based on market demand and real-life situation as 36 percent of employers in the country are now facing the shortage of skilled manpower, says Syed Alamgir, a renowned marketer and Managing Director of ACI Consumer Brands Limited.
In an interview with UNB, he also said the universities need to build a strong rapport with industries and devise a framework for students to build experience while studying.
Alamgir, who won the first-ever ‘Channel I Bangladesh Brand Forum Marketing Superstar Award’ this year, suggested the young generation interested in taking up marketing as their profession to enhance their ability to understand people’s need and mindset to have a success.
“Around 36 percent of employers in Bangladesh are facing the shortage of skilled manpower which is a leading reason for entry-level vacancies,” he said.
Alamgir said a company wants to hire a complete (ready) person, but the universities now only focus on education ignoring the issue of developing skills and mindset of their students. “University graduates should be taught the real-life situation instead of giving them knowledge on some theories and theses. Curricula should be linked to careers as well.”
The ACI MD said there should have coordination between the industries and the universities to produce ready graduates with practical knowledge.
“Industries asses a newly graduated student based on education, set of skills and mindset. So, the universities should give importance to improving skills (relevant transferable experience and qualities) and mindset (attitude, interests and initiatives) of their students for producing ready business graduates,” he said.
Mentioning that a very few partnership projects are in place between the universities and businesses, the renowned marketer thinks constant collaboration and mutually beneficial projects and study need to be designed and implemented by the universities.
“Our current practice needs to change as four-year business study and three-month internship gives very little to graduates for skill development. Students should be involved with the business right from the beginning of the study,” Alamgir observes.
Marketing in digital age
Alamgir said four things--good marketing strategy, product quality, innovation and premier services --are necessary for having success in marketing in this digital age.
“Good marketing strategy doesn’t mean deceiving consumers, rather giving them good and quality products and persuade them to accept those,” he opined.
Besides, the marketers need to know people’s mindset and their need, but there should not be any falsification. “You’ll be able to do many things if you don’t resort to falsification.”
“The main reason behind my success is that I roam around all regions of the country, including the remote ones, to read people’s mind and know their needs. I talk to cross-sections of people to know them and their requirements. A marketer needs to know the needs and mindset from the wealthy to the bottom of the pyramid,” he pointed out.
Before launching any product, the ACI senior official said they think two things -- need gap and replacing any current product with diversification.
For example, he said, there is a huge demand among people for real juice in Bangladesh, but there is no real juice here. “Real juice is available all over the world. So, if any company now comes up with real juice product with affordable prices, it will evoke tremendous response from consumers.”
About his much-talked-about marketing concept ‘halal soap’, he said it gets remarkable success in the country as well as the globe as it is now being used by many multinational companies, including McDonald’. “Philip Kotler, a famous professor of marketing, included a case study on my concept halal soap in his book titled “The Principles of Marketing” describing it a smart and clever idea.”
Alamgir said the modern marketing began in Bangladesh in the 80s while nearly 55 lakh people are now engaged in this profession who are working for development of the business through which the country will be developed.
“Marketing is not an easy job. It has a lot of challenges involving values and morality. I’ll have to take your hard-earned money from your pocket by satisfying your need with honesty, but I can’t take it through depiction. There’s no scope for deception in marketing for success and sustainability. It’s not possible to survive in the market with deception.”
He suggested the young marketers to try to be focused on their jobs. “They must learn their consumers so that they can understand the need gaps and also can find out what the message the consumers should be given to pursue them.”
Alamgir said Bangladesh’s most of the businesses are now covered by international companies. “We, the local companies, have to fight and outsmart them with quality and strategy. When I introduced halal soap, it outsmarted international soap brands.”
Narayanganj, May 3 (UNB) -Travelling by ferries may sound exciting! But you need to think twice before travelling through the Shitalakhhya River.
Two ferries now ply this vital river route every day with a single engine each taking risks at Murapara-Rupganj point in Rupganj upazila.
Visiting the ferry ghats and talking to some drivers and passengers, the UNB correspondent found that the ferries have four engines in total but two remain out of order most of the time for which they jerk strongly while moving, causing frequent accidents.
Dhaka-bound passengers from 17 districts cross the Shitalakkhya River every day and have to wait for hours due to technical faults of two 28-year-old ferries which require frequent repairing of its engines and bodies.
Thousands of passengers form 17 districts of the country, particularly Cumilla, Chandpur, Noakhali, Feni, Chattogram, Habiganj, Brahmanbaria, Moulvibazar, and Sunamganj are using this route for entering the capital.
A good number of drivers and passengers told the UNB correspondent that they are using the river-route instead of Dhaka-Sylhet highway to avoid hassles as the work on Bhulta flyover is underway.
“We’re paying fares as per rules. So, why should we sufferer?” said an aggrieved bus driver.
According to official sources, Roads and Highways Department arranged the two ferries on Shitalakkhya River [Murapara-Rupganj Sadar area] to facilitate communication between Dhaka and some 17 districts.
Each year, they lease out the two ferries to different contracting firms. Currently, these are leased out to Samor Ali Sardar, the owner of Sumon Enterprise.
“When I inform the authorities concerned about the problems, they make temporary a solution. But people have to suffer again as new problems arise due to the rundown condition of the ferries,” said Samar Ali Sardar.
Sub-divisional engineer of district Roads and Highways department Shakhawat Hossain said, “We’ve already discussed the problem. It’ll be resolved as early as possible.”
Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Momtaz Begum also said steps will be taken to assuage the sufferings after discussions with the authorities concerned.
Dhaka, May 2 (UNB) - Bangladesh and Myanmar are going to sit in Naypyidaw on Friday to discuss the Rohingya repatriation issue as the current crisis steps into almost two years with “zero progress” on Myanmar side that can help Rohingyas return to their place of origin confidently.
Bangladesh is expected to press for “expediting” the ongoing process to build confidence among Rohingyas during the fourth Bangladesh-Myanmar joint working group (JWG) meeting as the “lack of trust” remains one of the key issues, an official told UNB.
Bangladesh is likely to place a proposal to Myanmar to arrange a tour for Rohingya representatives to Rakhine State so that they can see the situation there as part of confidence-building measures, the official said.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, who visited Rohingya camps recently, said Myanmar has failed "to put in place confidence-building measures that will persuade people that it's safe to go back."
The Bangladesh delegation, led by Secretary-Bilateral (Asia & Pacific) Mahbub Uz Zaman, is already in Myanmar capital to attend the fourth Bangladesh-Myanmar joint working group (JWG) meeting.
The primary objective of the JWG is to implement expeditiously the “Arrangements on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State” signed on November 23, 2017 between Bangladesh and Myanmar, a senior official, who is also member of Bangladesh delegation, told UNB.
The JWG was established to oversee all the aspects of return of verified Myanmar residents from Rakhine State who are living in Cox’s Bazar district. “The JWG will discuss such related issues within its purview,” said the official.
As per terms of reference, the JWG is responsible for the smooth conduct of return of displaced Myanmar residents from Rakhine State and their reintegration.
“Therefore, in order to expedite the repatriation process, all the pertinent issues may come up for discussion,” said another senior official adding that the status of the repatriation process, the possible way forward and its related issues will also be discussed in the one-day meeting.
The third foreign secretary-level JWG meeting, held at State guesthouse Meghna in Dhaka, was co-chaired by Permanent Secretary Myint Thu of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar and his Bangladeshi counterpart Senior Secretary M Shahidul Haque of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
At the third JWG meeting last year, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to start repatriating the first group of Rohingyas by mid-November which was halted due to unwillingness of Rohingyas to return amid the absence of conducive environment in Rakhine.
In August last year, a Bangladesh delegation, led by then Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, saw the “trail of wide-spread devastation” suffered by the people of the northern Rakhine State.
Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.2 million Rohingyas with more than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh from Rakhine state since August 25, 2017.
Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University’s International Relations department has said the government needs to change its body language while dealing with Myanmar over Rohingya issue and put much emphasis on internationalisation of the issue in a bigger way.
“The body language must change when we’re negotiating with Myanmar. This is very important,” he said advising the government of Bangladesh to study how Indira Gandhi tackled Pakistan in 1971 and deal with Myanmar accordingly to address the Rohingya crisis.
Bangladesh wants a “peaceful” solution to the crisis and remains engaged bilaterally with Myanmar and internationally.
On April 29, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he sees “no solution other than a bilateral one” based on dialogue and mutual understanding, the way it should be between neighbours.
“We’re convinced that a direct dialogue between Dhaka and Naypyidaw is the main factor in the settlement, and the role of the international community is to provide constructive assistance to both states in implementing bilateral agreements,” he said after his meeting with Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen in Moscow.
The Russian Foreign Minister said the repatriation could have started as early as November last but unfortunately it did not happen. “We need to do our best to resume this process.”
Talking about recent visit of three top UN officials to Bangladesh, Lavrov said these high representatives, “probably contrary to the mandates” of their organisations, expressed doubts about the expediency of starting the repatriation of 8,000 verified Rohingyas.
“These refugees are ready to return. I was surprised that representatives of the UN and its specialised agencies showed interest in keeping refugees on the territory of another country,” he said.
Dhaka, May 1 (UNB) - Amid the growing unemployment problem in the country, experts have said the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector can be an effective tool to resolve the problem if it gets necessary support to flourish.
They said there is no alternative now to putting emphasis on the SME sector and creating skilled manpower through technology-based education.
A large number of educated youths are now unemployed in the country. The current rate of unemployment will rise further in the future and the government should think for more employment generation for youths, they said.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), country’s unemployment rate increased to 4.37 percent in December 2017 from 4.35 percent in 2016.
Every year, about 2 million young people join the country's workforce. Half of them find jobs at home or abroad. So, it has become a challenge to create more jobs so that the rest can be employed.
Dr Mohammad Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), said the country’s SME sector would undoubtedly play an important role in reducing unemployment and attaining double digit GDP growth in the future.
“We’re moving towards technology-based industry. Thousands of factory workers will lose their jobs for the 4th industrial revolution. So, it’s time to think about the SME sector. Or else, where will the unemployed people go? In many developed countries of the world, the SME sector is playing a significant role in the economy. So, we need to carry out extensive research and take necessary plans in this regard,” he said.
Bangladesh Bank (BB) Governor Fazle Kabir said the SME sector can contribute to the country’s journey towards achieving double-digit GDP growth.
Putting emphasis on creating skilled entrepreneurs, he said, “We’re providing policy support to encourage small and medium entrepreneurs. So, various training programmes should be arranged to create skilled entrepreneurs,” he said.
“SMEs will generate jobs and boost the economic growth. Micro industry is developing here. So, there’s a good future for SME entrepreneurs. Banks have been instructed to provide at least 20 percent of the loans to SME industries. Entrepreneurs can get loans with special facilities from Entrepreneurship Support Fund,” the central bank governor said.
Md Mostaqaue Hassan, Chairman of Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), told UNB that they have taken mega initiatives to promote the SME sector.
“Now, our main focus is on the areas having business potential where we can build SME industrial parks. We’ve already visited places by the Padma River, especially Shariatpur-Madaripur and Munshiganj areas, for 500-1000 acres of land to set up two BSCIC industrial parks,” he added.
The BSCIC chairman also said they need more support from the government to develop the sector as there are many challenges and barriers to implementing projects. “We’ll build industrial parks on around 20,000 acres of land in the next 10 years and create one crore employments. Educated youths will get priority. A radical change will take place in economy in future,” he also said.
Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun told UNB that his ministry is organising many fairs to promote the sector so that foreign investors could be aware that there is a good atmosphere to invest in Bangladesh.
“We’re inspiring entrepreneurs at the district level. Now, we’ll focus on the districts where agro-based products are produced. We’ll train up the entrepreneurs,” he said.
The minister further said the ministry has taken some initiatives to build sustainable and environment-friendly industries. “We hope the SME sector will play a big role in the country’s economy in future.”
According to a report of the Planning Division tiled “Study on Future Direction of SME in Bangladesh”, SMEs now occupy an important position in the national economy. They account for about 45 percent of manufacturing value addition, about 80 percent of industrial employment, about 90 percent of total industrial units and about 25 percent of the labour force. Their total contribution to export earnings varies from 75 percent to 80 percent.
The industrial sector makes up 31 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), most of which is coming from SMEs.
The total number of SMEs in Bangladesh is estimated to be 7,900,000. Of them, 93.6 percent are small and 6.4 percent are medium. The 2003 Private Sector Survey estimated that there are about 6 million micro, small and medium enterprises, with fewer than 100 employees each. About 60-65 percent of all SMEs are located outside the metropolitan areas of Dhaka and Chattogram.
The country's SME sector has created 15 lakh jobs between 2009 and June 2014.