There is a large internal market for agricultural machinery. To benefit from it, local entrepreneurs have to come forward and focus on manufacturing small machinery as well as the large ones. But, it requires skilled or trained manpower. In the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2021-22, the government has called for increasing skills in vocational education or training related to agriculture.
It is a very positive initiative. A precise implementation procedure needs to be fixed here, because we are no longer following traditional agricultural practices. In many cases agriculture is being commercialised through the use of technology, but all agricultural technologies are imported. If we had trained manpower, we could have made these machines ourselves. This would enable us to export these technologies after meeting our local demands in future.
In order to attract big investment in this sector, it is necessary to give importance to fiscal policy, tax policy and give benefits to the investors. We have to change the mentality of just giving and receiving stimulus packages.
Increasing the production of different goods is not enough if the government wants to emphasise exporting agricultural products. To do that, first we have to decide what kind of products we will emphasise. There are many big players in the international rice market, so it does not look like we can benefit from it much. If we want to give importance to the export of other agricultural products, we have to focus on the domestic market first, because there are not many quality products here and the bad reputation of adulterated goods prevails.
We cannot progress much in export with the agricultural products in this situation. We have to produce safe and well-declared products first. We have to ensure the food safety for 17 crore people in the country. There is no alternative to developing good agricultural practices and ensuring the products' quality before entering the international market.
In addition to modern agriculture, the highest importance should be given to the protection of soil resources to ensure food security in the country. Every year more and more land in the agricultural sector is being shifted to the non-agricultural sector. Those who are shifting agricultural land to the non-agricultural sector should be discouraged. To do this, the authorities should give zone-based support to investors.
Dr MA Sattar Mandal is an agricultural economist and emeritus professor at Bangladesh Agricultural University