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The Political Economy of Agrarian Futures in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) organized a seminar titled "The Political Economy of Agrarian Futures in Bangladesh" on May 23, 2024, in the BIDS Conference Room. The keynote paper was presented by Professor Dr M. A. Sattar Mandal, Professorial Fellow, BIDS and Emeritus Professor, Bangladesh Agricultural University, and Geof Wood, PhD, FAcSS, Emeritus Professor of International Development and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences at the University of Bath, UK.

Dr Md. Abdur Razzaque MP, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh National Parliament and Former Agriculture Minister graced the event as the Chief Guest. 

The seminar featured a panel of distinguished discussants, including Dr Sajjad Zohir, Executive Director, Economic Research Group, Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, Executive Chairman, Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC), Dr Atiur Rahman, Emeritus Professor, Development Studies Department, Former Bangabandhu Chair Professor, University of Dhaka and Former Governor, Bangladesh Bank, and Professor Dr M M Akash, Faculty, BIDS Graduate School of Economics (BGSE), BIDS and Former Professor of Economics, University of Dhaka. 

During the seminar, Dr M. A. Sattar Mandal, one of the keynote paper's authors, stated, "We are witnessing direct results from the transformation in Bangladesh's agricultural sector. Our production has increased, and food security has improved. While producers have incurred losses in some areas, their overall income has increased." He also highlighted a significant challenge: "The amount of land available for cultivation is decreasing."

Dr Geof Wood, another author of the keynote paper, discussed market dynamics, stating, "We have been analyzing the power of the market and its potential to consolidate fragmented land, leading to higher productivity and opportunities. This is where the rentier-contractor model comes into play."

Chief Guest Dr Md. Abdur Razzaque MP noted the potential for cultivating a diverse range of crops commercially to address food shortages. He pointed out that significant land remains unused for long periods each year due to salinity and irrigation issues.

Distinguished discussant Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman emphasized the importance of agriculture in earning foreign currency, ranking just after garments and remittances, and called for its prioritization in policy.

Dr Sajjad Zohir highlighted the critical role of land ownership and land reform in shaping the future political economy of Bangladesh's agrarian system.

Dr Atiur Rahman expressed concern over the impact of urbanization on agricultural land and crop production. He noted that while there are noticeable efforts to attract investment in economic zones, there is less visible effort to attract investment in agriculture.

Professor Dr M. M. Akash advocated for providing small farmers with guaranteed fair prices for their harvests, easy credit terms, and the adoption of efficient technologies to boost agricultural production.

Dr Binayak Sen, Director General of BIDS, who moderated the event, stressed that around 40% of the population relies on agriculture for employment. He urged the government not to overlook this sector during austerity measures. Dr Sen also suggested that agri-technologies should be made accessible to grassroots farmers, stating, "If we can do that, the country will move further forward." He emphasized the need to rationalize tariffs and subsidy policies for agricultural products in the current context, as these are home-grown products.

Meeting recording link here

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