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‘Bangladesh Flower Fest 2017’ strengthens farmer-consumer relationship

A three-day flower festival titled ‘Bangladesh Flower Fest-2017’ concluded at the Bangla Academy premises in Dhaka on April 01, 2017. USAID’s Agricultural Value Chains (AVC) Project was a major sponsor of the Flower Fest. Innovation and Incubation Centre for Enterprises (IICE) and Bangladesh Flower Society (BFS) jointly organized the Flower Fest with the cooperation of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University (SEU), Bangladesh Photographic Society (BPS) and Deshifool.com.

The second event of the Bangladesh Flower Fest attracted over 50,000 visitors in three days of the show that began on March 30, 2017. A total of 14 pavilions and 33 stalls were setup in the fair for displaying flowers of different species and varieties. The festival also features fashion show, Sisimpur puppet show, cultural program, food zone, kid’s corner, workshop, photo booth and flower tunnel.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Agriculture Mr. Mokbul Hossain inaugurated the fair as the chief guest. BFS President Abdur Rahim presided over the inaugural ceremony while Vice-Chancellor of SEU Professor Dr. Kamal Uddin Ahamed, former secretary of Agricultural Ministry Anwar Faruk, and agriculturist Hamidur Rahman spoke at the event.

USAID’s Agricultural Value Chains (AVC) project has been working to support the cut flower industry in terms of its growth and market development. The project supports farmers and traders with capacity building in farming practices, use of new technologies, in packaging and transporting and linked them to critical market opportunities.

The objectives of sponsoring the event were to promote and recognize the efforts of flower farmers of Jessore in the growth of flower sector of Bangladesh as well as establish a women centric brand in this sector. This was a great opportunity for the women flower farmers, traders and entrepreneurs from Jessore as they got a critical market access, learned how to make flower bouquets and other innovative floral products. This fair also gave them the opportunity to have direct interaction with the key customer base of this specialty product. This in turn will help in building their business capacity and inspire more and more women to be involved in the flower sector.

Through this flower fest, BFS evolved as a major player working with multiple channels including event organizers, designers and core value chain actors. This has created a platform for BFS to play a critical role in the long term growth trajectory of flower industry in Bangladesh.

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Barisal Flower Fair attracted huge number of visitors.

Barisal Flower Fair 2017 brings new hope for market expansion

Over 15,000 visitors thronged, celebrate and enjoyed the first ever Flower Fair in Barisal to welcome the Spring Season and Valentine’s Day. Organized by Barisal Flower Merchants Association and supported by USAID’s Agricultural Value Chains (AVC) project, the two day Flower Fair, held on February 13 and 14, 2017 at Bell’s Park, brought new hope as the local administration assured of an exclusive flower market place for the flower traders at the Barisal stadium premises. The Deputy Commissioner of Barisal, Dr. Gazi Md. Saifuzzaman, who was present as the chief guest at the closing ceremony, made this commitment in response to a demand of the Flower Merchants Association.

Earlier, the fair was inaugurated by Additional Deputy Commissioner of Barisal, Mr. Zakir Hossain, on February 13, 2017. The objective of the flower fair was to expand the flower market and consumer base through popularizing locally grown flowers. Three days ahead of the event, the local traders assembled flowers from Gothkhali, Jessore. In two days of the fair, the participant flower traders sold flowers worth over BDT 200,000 from 14 booths. Two other AVC market actors Agroback and Prantojon also participated in the fair and exhibited their products.

Speaking on the occasion, the Deputy Commissioner said that Barisal has all potentials to become a flower growing district as same as Jessore. He declared that if anyone is interested he will support to provide over 100 acres of land in char (sand bar) areas for cultivation of flowers in Barisal. Among others, local political, business and media representatives were also present at the concluding event with President of the Barisal Flower Merchants Association Md. Mozahar Gazi in the chair.

There was a cultural program at the concluding event where local singers and dancers performed in presence of over 5,000 audiences. Many people had to stay outside the venue due to space constraint.

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A participant sharing her experience of jute product marketing with the facilitator in the training

Training on Jute Product Development and Marketing

USAID’s Agricultural Value Chains project organized a training event on Jute Product Development and Marketing for the leading jute products manufacturers of the country. The training began on January 15 and will continue till January 19, 2017. Total 30 participants, including CEOs and managing partners of BGDMEA, Creations, CHP, Brinta, Moni Jutes, Rahela Boutique, Holy Crafts and Conexpo attended the meeting. The main objective of this training is to facilitate the industry to identify the greatest opportunities for Jute sales and market development as well as orient the entrepreneurs about international markets. This will help the entrepreneurs to develop their products and get new international channels for their business expansion.

Jim Krigbaum, a consultant from 20/20 Development Company LLC, USA, facilitated the sessions. Course participants developed skills in assessing firms’ readiness to export including organizational structure, staffing needs and training, and product selection. The need for company profiles, certification and product profile sheets has been discussed in the training. The participants also had the opportunity to learn market research techniques to introduce available on-line resources and to show how to refine the product choice to identify a profitable niche in the right market considering the global competitors and company resources.

Domestic market is growing for jute diversified products in Bangladesh. The demand for a variety of jute products has been in increasing trend in Europe and United States and there are opportunities for exporting companies to diversify their product mix to find a market niche. Availability of good quality of raw materials in Bangladesh provides growth opportunities from semi-processing industries into fuller processing, multiple industrial uses/applications for jute, with affordable labor cost.

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Dr R. Muniappan, Director of IPM Innovation Lab, Virginia Tech, USA speaking at a gathering of Agri-Extension Officials in Jessore on December 06, 2016.

Combined Actions Needed to Control Tomato Leaf Miner “Tuta Absoluta”

Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and Seed Industries Association of Bangladesh (SIAB) with support from the USAID's Agricultural Value Chains Project in Bangladesh organized a seminar on "Integrated Management of Tuta Absoluta, Tomato leafminer" on December 05, 2016 at BARC auditorium in Dhaka. A similar workshop was held in Jessore on December 06, 2016 to aware local level stakeholders, Agricultural Extension officials and lead farmers. Dr. Shahidur Rashid Bhuiyan, a Professor and former Pro-Vice Chancellor of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, presided over the Dhaka event, while Md. Hamidur Rahman, Director General of the Department of Agricultural Extension, Dr. Md. Rafiqul Islam Mondal, Director General, BARI and Mr. Aniruddha Hom Roy, Private Sector Adviser to USAID were present as guests of honor. Dr R. Muniappan, Director and Dr. Short Heinrichs, Asia Program Manager of IPM Innovation Lab, Virginia Tech, USA explained in details about the leafminer and its management practices while Dr. Md. Shahadath Hossain, Senior Scientific Officer, Horticulture Research Center, BARI discussed about “Meeting the challenges of Tuta Absoluta in Bangladesh”. Agricultural scientists stressed the urgent need for conducting a survey to determine the extent of damage to tomato production, caused by the pest in the country. The pest was identified in a tomato field at Chaklarhat village of Tunuirhat in Panchagarh in May. The insect might be seriously harmful to tomato production in the infested field. If not controlled, they said, it might wipe out the majority of the country’s tomato crop. The BARI scientist suggested taking immediate measures such as conducting surveys, sowing healthy seedlings, and using pest exclusion nets and pesticides made of neem (margosa). “The pest cannot be destroyed, but employing integrated pest management practices can lead to an effective control," mentioned R Muniappan, director of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of the office of International Research, Education and Development at Virginia Tech. "With the proactive actions taken by IPM Innovation Lab, we hope to significantly reduce the economic loss caused by this pest in Nepal and Bangladesh as well as in the rest of Asia and the United States," he said, when addressing the seminar.

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The Fresh Mart 2016 at Motijheel, Dhaka

‘Fresh Mart’ attracts 4,700 visitors in first two days

The weekend farmers’ market titled ‘Fresh Mart’ organized by Incubation Centre for Enterprise (IICE) with support from USAID’s Agriculture Value Chains (AVC) Project at Motijheel T&T Colony in Dhaka could attract 4,700 visitors in two days on November 18-19, 2016. The participating organizations earned around Tk 150,000 from selling over seven tons of vegetables. The objective of the Fresh Mart was to create a direct linkage of the southern farmers with the urban markets as well as introduce consumers with fresh southern vegetables free from any chemicals. Nine organizations, including ACI, RRF, Agroland, Uzirpur Multipurpose Society, Prova Society and Zoha Enterprise, installed 19 boots where vegetables from the country's south were on sale. Total 40 farmers from Meherpur, Jhenidah, Bagerhat, Chuadanga, Jessore, Narail, and Bhola took part. Three more fairs will be organized in Dhanmondi, Banani and Uttara for selling safe vegetables by December 10, 2016. Mr. Selim Aktar Khan, a director of Dhaka Chamber of Commerrce and Industries (DCCI), formally inaugurated the event. Among others, Mr. Aniruddha H. Roy, from Economic Growth Office of USAID, also spoke on the occasion. People from around the colony and other parts of the city visited the market. The platform was the first of its kind where farmers sold fresh vegetable and got fair prices. Monjurul Islam, a postal employee and resident of the colony, said that he came to this market to get fresh vegetables and found the price was reasonable. He demanded for making it a regular event so that the consumers always get the fresh commodities.

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A participant at the Orientation program on Inoculum in Jessore asking question to the facilitators about the efficacy of bio-fertilizer.

Introduction of Bio-fertilizer in the South

USAID’s Agriculture Value Chain Project organized a round table discussion in Dhaka on November 15, 2016 to bring key players in the ICT sector together to identify key opportunities and constrains in the business linking ICT in agriculture. Representatives from the leading IT farms, including Leads Corporation, Semicon Private Limited, Genweb2 Limited, Win Miaki, Divine IT Limited, Data Edge Limited and Bangladesh Microtechnology Limited took part in this round table. AVC Chief of Party Michael Field and Deputy Chief Party Bani Amin shared the prospect of IT farms integrating themselves at the growing business of Agriculture in Bangladesh as this sector is already expanded and grown up within the recent few years. At here, It is shared that integration of IT with agriculture sectors enable the interest of farmers and it is a big opportunity for private sector in this field as a cloud integration , communication and solutions of the agriculture e-commerce . Speakers in the meeting appreciated this initiative of AVC very much as ICTs leveraged as a tool for e-commerce at the agriculture sector in Bangladesh. They participants also placed various recommendations for integrating IT with agricultural sector. They expressed this sort of initiative as a breakthrough for strengthening agricultural sector in Bangladesh. Md. Almgir Hossain Tutul adds, “Integration of IT at agriculture can provide the most affordable ways for millions of people to access information, markets, finance, and governance systems to them.” They shared that e-commerce is necessary for ensuring decentralization and providing effective service delivery promoting agri business. They also argued that the growing markets for the ICT products and services should be integrated at marketing, finance through developing more specialized apps for the farmers, traders, transporters who working at the agriculture fields

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Josh Woodard, Technical Advisor of FHI 360 made presentation at the report launching ceremony

AVC and mSTAR Launches two Reports on Access to Finance

USAID’s Agricultural Value Chains (AVC) project jointly with USAID’s mSTAR project (implemented by FHI 360) organized a report launching event on “Agricultural Value Chains Insights: Opportunities in Bangladesh” on November 22, 2016 in Dhaka. During the event, two major reports related to AVCs in Bangladesh, Study on Pattern of Financial Flow within Agricultural Market System and Integrating Digital Financial Services into Agricultural Value Chains: A Bangladesh Market Landscape Assessment have been launched. Both the reports, prepared by AVC Project and mSTAR respectively, provide insights in the financial behaviors of actors along the value chains, and as well as recommendations for opportunities for the financial institutions related to those behaviors can be comprehended. The purpose of both the studies was to assess the potential for financial services (DFS) including digital financial services to contribute to improved value chain efficiency. Seezan Mumith Choudhury of Consiglieri Privet Ltd and Josh Woodard, Technical Advisor of FHI 360 made presentation on the two reports. About 50 participants from different banks, financial institutions, insurance companies and international organizations attended the event. The report launching event was followed by panel discussions particularly on government’s initiative in access to finance for the farmers. This was a real time opportunity to initiate networking with other agriculture and financial services leaders.

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AVC Chief of Party Michael Field shared potential ideas on how best the ICT industry can deliver value in agro sector.

Integration of ICT in Agriculture Vital

USAID’s Agriculture Value Chain Project organized a round table discussion in Dhaka on November 15, 2016 to bring key players in the ICT sector together to identify key opportunities and constrains in the business linking ICT in agriculture. Representatives from the leading IT farms, including Leads Corporation, Semicon Private Limited, Genweb2 Limited, Win Miaki, Divine IT Limited, Data Edge Limited and Bangladesh Microtechnology Limited took part in this round table. The round table was designed to bring a small group of ICT firms together to discuss opportunities and threats related to delivering commercially viable services to these potential clients. AVC Chief of Party Michael Field and Deputy Chief Party Bani Amin shared potential ideas on how best the ICT industry can deliver value to such clients, including potential next steps that the industry or firms can take right away. Speakers at the meeting appreciated this initiative from AVC as ICT is leveraged as a tool for e-commerce in the agriculture. The participants also placed various recommendations for integrating IT with agricultural sector. Terming it as a breakthrough for strengthening agricultural sector, Mr. Alamgir Hossain Tutul, business manager of Devine IT Limited said that the integration of ICT in agricultural sector can play a vital role in changing the current agricultural market system, including improving markets information, finance, and governance for the producers and traders.” They opted for launching e-commerce through apps for ensuring decentralization as well as providing effective service delivery promoting agro business.

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Mustafizur Rahman, Assistant Vice President and Kaliganj Branch Head of Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited answering question from flower farmers on different investment opportunities.

Linking flower farmers with financial institution

USAID’s Agricultural Value Chains (AVC) project organized an access to finance linkage meeting on October 22, 2016 with the Islami Bangk Bangladesh Limited and the flower farmers in Kaliganj, Jhenaidah region. Around 130 flower farmers attended the interactive meeting to learn about different loan products and investment opportunities with the bank. Mr. Abdullah Al Mamun, Senior Officer of Khulna regional office of Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited explained different investment products including its ‘rural development project’ that gives opportunity for farmers to open bank account with BDT 10 only. Under this project, farmers require to form a group of 10 people and select a leader of the group to avail investment starting from BDT 20,000 to 100,000. Mustafizur Rahman, Assistant Vice President and Kaliganj Branch Head of Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited welcomed the participants and pledged to provide financial support to the flower farmers as required. Among others, Imamul Hossain, General Secretary of Bangladesh Flower Society, SM Tipu Sultan, Assistant General Secretary of Agargaon Flower Merchant and Grower Society, and local farmer Gias Uddin also spoke on the occasion. Islami Bank also provides investments for agro inputs and machineries, including power tillers, power pumps, shallow tube wells, and thresher machines, on easy terms to the farmers to augment their production as well as to unemployed rural youths for self-employment. AVC has been working in the Southern Bangladesh to improve selected value chains and build linkages between farmers and financial institutions. After a long negotiation, Islami Bank agreed to launch a new agricultural investment product specifically for the flower farmers in the Southern Delta. Flower farmers of Kaliganj area began cultivating high value flowers like Gerbera, Lillie and Eustoma. They require higher investment for these flowers and requested the bank to provide financial support with easy terms.

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A team of 11 mango entrepreneurs and traders from the South visited mango storage technology in Rajshahi.

Exposure visit to experience mango storing technology

AVC organized an exposure visits for 11 interested mango entrepreneurs and traders from the southern region of Bangladesh to experience mango storing technology in Rajshahi from 25 to 26 September, 2016. The objects of the exposure visit were to observe the physical structures and functionality of the system as well as identify the scope of commercializing the mango storing technology in the southern belt. The participants visited a mango store house at Akafuji Agro-technologies (formerly known as Alo Asha Biotech), developed by Dr. M. Monjur Hossain, a Professor of Rajshahi University with the help of some Japanese experts, in Namovodra, Rajshahi. The storing process includes cleaning of mangoes using fresh water and lime water, air drying, treatment to reduce ethane emission, packaging and storage. The main advantage of this storage technology is that it requires a low voltage of electricity (only 12 volt battery) to operate the thermoelectric cooler that can even be charged by a solar panel. This year, Akafuzi Agro-technologies collected 685 kgs of six varieties of mangoes and stored in the store house for one month controlling the environmental parameters, including temperature, carbon dioxide and relative humidity (RH). The rate of decomposition was 3-8 percent across the varieties after 30 days compared to 75-80 percent in traditional method. They prepared a cost-benefit analysis and calculated the gross margin that was almost 100 percent. After the visit, the participants’ observation is that the technology is very useful for their business expansion. Having encouraged with this visit, Crescent and Adorsha Chashi Foundation instantly expressed their interest to use this technology for mango storage.

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BARI Scientists explains the benefits of seeder and potato harvester machines to the participants in the training.

AVC promotes BARI seeder and potato harvester machines

In a bid to commercialize locally develop technologies with the business houses, USAID’s Agricultural Value Chains (AVC) project began promoting two machines designed by the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) linking with Janata Engineering, a leading private sector manufacturer of agro-machineries. As part of this, Janata Engineering organized a two-day training of trainers program in Sarojganj, Chuadanga on 2nd and 3rd October, 2016 to train some of their staff members on technical aspects and operation procedure of BARI power tiller operated seeder and BARI potato harvester so that they can act as machine operators and trainers at Janata’s upcoming promotional events and other training programs. Along with Janata staff members, representatives from their dealers also participated in the training program. Mr. Arshadul Haque, Senior scientific Officer, BARI along with Mr. Ashraful Islam, Senior Technician, BARI facilitated the training. Mechanization in agriculture is getting popularity in the Southern region as the area has been suffering from the scarcity of manual labor. BARI scientist said that the machines were designed to maximizing production, reducing cost of cultivation, postharvest losses as well as to make agriculture profitable. As a private manufacture, Janata received technical assistance, including prototypes, drawings and expert services from BARI. The training sessions included theoretical lectures with practical demonstration in the field. Feedback from trainees was positive as they were given opportunities to execute their learning from the training in the field. BARI personnel were also affirmative to explore more collaborative opportunities for commercialization of agro-machineries. Mr. Oli Ullah, Proprietor of Janata Engineering is optimistic of utilizing these technical skills to launch more training services for machine operators and mechanics and he also wished to promote the brand of Janata Engineering as a training service provider.