The first ever Bangladesh Agricultural Investment Forum started on Sunday as part of a fresh drive to accelerate agricultural transformation in the country.
The initiative, led by the Ministry of Agriculture, aims to increase targeted investment and access to finance for food producers and agri-processing companies, says a press release.
It brings together key stakeholders along the agrifood value chain, including business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, banks, and policymakers.
Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque was present as the chief guest. Wahida Akter, secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, chaired the opening session.
Major development partners supporting the initiative include CGIAR, Embassy of Denmark, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Bank Group, and World Food Program.
Having achieved many impressive agricultural milestones, Bangladesh is shifting from a focus on food security towards nutrition security, plus food quality, processing, and exports.
At the same time, overall demand for food in Bangladesh is rising and people’s food choices are changing. With a sizeable and growing middle-income class there will be a move away from rice to more expensive foods such as meat and fish, dairy products, and fruit and vegetables.
Continued rapid urbanization will result in increased demand for processed and convenience food. Consumers will be looking for more choice, better nutrition, and higher levels of food safety. All of this creates opportunities for Bangladeshi food producers and food-related businesses.
Innovative finance solutions are needed to address the challenges faced by farmers as well as small and medium-sized enterprises. The Bangladesh Agricultural Investment Forum 2023 will provide this, helping to remove a key barrier to growth.
The two-day forum, which is being held at the InterContinental hotel in Dhaka, will highlight strategic investment opportunities in select agricultural sectors, explore various innovative financial instruments, and facilitate matchmaking with private investors, domestic banks, and international financial institutions. It will open doors to rewarding investment opportunities by fostering knowledge sharing and networking.
Speaking on behalf of all the development partners, Robert D Simpson, FAO representative in Bangladesh, said: “The country’s agrifood businesses need significant investment to meet increased demand in Bangladesh but also to capitalize on export opportunities. As the country continues to develop and its economy grows, the country will become more attractive to a wider range of investors. This investment forum, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, will help to make crucial linkages between those who want to invest and those who stand to benefit from investment.”
He added: “All of the development partners are proud to be working together to support the Ministry of Agriculture as part of a wider effort to transform the country’s agricultural sector.”
There will be an in-depth discussion on strengthening Bangladesh’s agricultural competitiveness and another on financing for agrifood systems transformation. Other topics for discussion include crop production and farming systems, livestock and fisheries, as well as overall government policy.
The forum, which could become an annual event, is the result of last year’s FAO Investment Forum in Rome, Italy. Both forums are part of FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative which supports the implementation of nationally-led programs that accelerate agrifood systems transformation. Bangladesh will be one of about 10 countries returning for this year’s FAO Investment Forum which will be held in October.