Investors in the agro-processing industry at a seminar Sunday demanded subsidies on air cargo facilities cutting the existing subsidies in the agriculture sector.
They also demanded a separate 'Agro Processing Ministry,' as in India, to boost the agro-products' export from the country.
During the last year the government gave Tk 13.15 billion agro-subsidies to the farmers across the country, they said.
They said this amount helped in production of agricultural products, but did not get high value addition, as these could not be exported on a larger scale due to mainly inadequate air cargo space in the Bangladesh Biman.
The investors were speaking at a seminar on "WTO Agreement on Agriculture: Potentials of Agro-Processing Products of Bangladesh" held at the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) auditorium.
The seminar was organised by the DCCI in collaboration with the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) with DCCI President MA Momen in the chair.
Agriculture Minister MK Anwar was the chief guest at the seminar while former Commerce Secretary Suhel Ahmed Choudhury presented the keynote paper.
The Agriculture Minister said under the new World Trade Organisation (WTO), the country would not be able to give subsidies on agriculture even if it wants to.
In the new WTO rules, the authorities did not clearly mention the sectors in which the country could give subsidies and to what extent, the minister said.
"Now we are not a net import-based country. We are also exporting some agro-products like Basmoti Rice," said MK Anwar, adding that the researchers of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) invented 45 different varieties of rice over the last few years.
MA Momen urged the government to gather agri-marketing and business information through strong business support institutions.
He also urged the government to assist agro-investors and entrepreneurs in their access to innovative and appropriate technology, infrastructure and supporting services.
At the seminar chairman of the AP, a local agro processing industry, Fakhrul Islam Munshi urged the government to give a reserve fund amounting to Tk 200-250 million to facilitate such exporters.
Chief executive of the Pran Group Amjad Khan Chowdhury said India is the single largest country of such agro products.
"So it is very necessary to sign a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India," he said.
Managing Director of the Kazi Farms Limited Kazi Zahedul Hasan said the government's 25 per cent cash incentive for the poultry sector helped increase the production.