Prospects of agro-processing enterprises is bright in the Rajshahi region as it produces surplus crops especially food-grains, fruits and vegetables, business leaders, bankers, agronomists and researchers reveal.
They viewed the region has enormous potentials for making agro-processing enterprises sustainable and profitable as it has been producing varieties of fruits and vegetables contributing to the national economy.
They focused on the agricultural potentials of the region with special emphasis on value added agro-processing opportunities and agro-based industries.
It could add to the industrialization efforts of agro-based and agro-processing industry in the region for a sustainable and well formed linkage of production, processing and marketing.
Abu Bakker Ali, President of Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), said the region, a food surplus area, produce adequate crops particularly rice, maize, wheat, fruits especially mango, banana, papaya and tomato and vegetables for the last couple of decades by dint of its suitable soil condition, topography and climate.
Vegetables like potato, cauliflower, tomato, white gourd, bean, spinach, puin, pea and baby corn are being produced in the region in larger amount side by side with broccoli, carrot, celery, capsicum and strawberry.
He said the Bangabandhu Multipurpose Jamuna Bridge contributes a lot in improving communication in the northern region, creating wider scopes for increased production of cereals, fruits, vegetables and livestock over the years.
“In fact, this has opened up many opportunities for agro-business in the region,” he said stressing the need for uninterrupted power supply and availability of natural gas to help set up agro-based small, medium and big industries in northern districts.
The business leader urged the government to upgrade the Rajshahi Airport, making it an outlet for directly exporting the processed agri-Products, fresh vegetables and fruits to different Middle Eastern and European countries.
He underscored the need for setting up agro-processing industries to ensure maximum utilization of agricultural products.
Establishment of agro-processing industries would encourage the farmers to grow more high valued products for their higher income.
He termed the industrialization as the most relevant indicator of the country’s progress and prosperity. He said the agro-based industries constitute about 50 percent of the country’s total industries, employing 60 percent of the total labor forces in the industrial sector.
Muhammad Ali Sarker, another business icon of the city, said the region has now been fulfilling 52 percent of the country’s total food demand along with supplying 76 percent raw- materials of the country’s agro- based industries. “Unfortunately, there is not any big industrial unit here,” he said.
Potato flakes have great international demand and its production technology is relatively simple and labour intensive. Besides, the region alone produces 49 percent of the country’s total mango production and there is an ample opportunity for establishment of mango-based industries here.
Mofazzal Hossain, Managing Director of Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank, said the northwest region, known as the granary of Bangladesh, alone produces nearly one-third of total rice of the country.
He said there is ample opportunity to extract edible oil from rice bran in the region by setting up a large number of medium sized rice-bran oil processing mills.
The districts of Rajshahi, Naogaon, Chapainawabgonj, Natore and Dinajpur produce good quality aromatic rice. There exists a tremendous scope to export aromatic rice. There is a need of collaborative approach involving producers, millers, exporters and financial institutions.
Banker Hossain said maize production can be doubled and quadrupled within a short time in the region with a little effort through establishing backward and forward linkage among maize growers, buyers and entrepreneurs.
Required number of feed mills can be established for meeting demand of feed mills in the wake of flourishing poultry industries in the country.
Nurul Amin, Additional Director of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), described ‘value addition to agricultural products and agro-processing’ as very much consistent with the government policy since due emphasis are being given on agro- processing at present.