Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday put forward a three-point suggestion for ensuring food security in the Asia-Pacific region and strengthening collaboration among countries in the field of agricultural research and education.
“To ensure food security in the Asia-Pacific region, I would like to suggest that collaboration among countries of the region in the field of agricultural research and education should be enhanced,” she said.
The Prime Minister was addressing as the chief guest in the inaugural ceremony of the 36th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific.
She joined the hybrid event virtually from her place of residence in Abu Dhabi.
Bangladesh is hosting the regional conference in Dhaka for the first time.
Raising her second suggestion, Hasina said, “Transfer and sharing of cutting-edge technologies like bio-technology, nanotechnology, and robotics in the agricultural sector need to be strengthened among FAO member states in the region.”
In the third recommendation, she said, “As modern agriculture needs huge investment, a special fund could be created to finance and support the agri-sector.”
The PM said the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the agricultural sector like other sectors. At the initial stage of the pandemic in 2020, the supply chain was disrupted affecting both the producers and consumers, she said.
“However, our timely and effective interventions helped the sector recover fast. We took special measures, including mechanisation, to ensure unhindered food production and supply of agricultural inputs,” she added.
Hasina said the Covid-19 pandemic revealed how vulnerable human beings are in the face of such disaster. It has also revealed how the human race by acting together can face such challenges, she added.
“Food security is surely the most pressing issue for people. About 305.7 million people in South Asia still suffer from hunger. We can arrange food for them easily if we all make a sincere effort,” she said.
Focusing on Bangladesh’s agriculture sector, the PM said although the relative significance of the agricultural sector in GDP has been diminishing in the country, the absolute contribution did not fall, but rather increased. The agricultural GDP saw a 40 percent increase since 2005-06.
Despite the fall in its share, agriculture still remains the main source of employment, providing livelihood to 40 percent of the labour force. Currently about 22.7 million people of which 45pc are women are directly employed in the agricultural sector, she said.
Besides, now many agro-processing industries are fully dependent on agriculture for basic raw materials like rice milling, sugar, tea, fruit juice, spices, edible oil, tobacco, jute textiles, cotton textiles, starch and others. Thus, agriculture still remains the backbone of Bangladesh’s economy, she added.
Hasina said Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in the production of rice, vegetable, fruit, fish, meat, egg and milk production in the last 13 years. It has also become self-sufficient in rice production by producing nearly 38 million metric tons of rice a year, she added.
In the world, Bangladesh is ranked 2nd in jute and freshwater fish production, 3rd in rice and vegetable production, and 4th in tea production. Among the 11 Hilsa-producing countries, Bangladesh’s stands first, said Hasina.
“These achievements have been possible due to continuous policy support and incentives provided by our government, as well as the efforts of our hard-working farmers,” she said, adding that entrepreneurs have also created a thriving private sector where agriculture is growing and expanding.
“Despite these successes, we realise that we’ve to do more to achieve food and nutrition security in the real sense. It’s because these sectors are prone to shocks from nature and climate related abnormalities,” said the PM.
Noting that Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries affected by climate change, Hasina said climate change is also a major threat to sustainable agriculture. “So, we’ve been implementing various adaptation and mitigation projects from our Climate Change Trust Fund to offset the impacts.”
Mentioning that Bangladesh’s subsistence agriculture has also been transforming into commercial agriculture, she said, “We, therefore, need to put emphasis on diversification of food production through growing high-value food, and processing value-addition to the low-value foods.”
“In order to ensure sustainable production, we’re converting to modern agricultural practices like mechanisation, floating agriculture, rooftop farming, hydroponic and aeroponic farming and integrated farming,” Hasina said.
The Prime Minister declared the FAO 36th Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific open.
Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) QU Dongyu and Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim spoke in the regional conference presided over by Agriculture Minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque.