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Bangladesh Agriculture Minister seeks further support from IRRI to address rice production challenges

As Bangladesh’s agriculture and food sector faces challenges, the country’s Agriculture Ministry sought the cooperation of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in key research and development initiatives that can help alleviate poverty among farmers, address climate change impacts, increase rice production, and make the country self-sufficient in rice.

The recent meeting between the Bangladesh Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque and IRRI delegation led by IRRI South Asia Representative Dr. Nafees Meah at the Bangladesh Secretariat on May 10, 2022 resulted in the discussion of the key issues surrounding agriculture and food security.

Razzaque sought IRRI’s help to develop improved rice varieties with traits such as high yield, shorter duration, water efficient, and tolerant to climatic stresses including floods, drought, salinity, and cold among others.

Meanwhile, the IRRI delegation thanked the Government of Bangladesh for its continued support to IRRI and assured the Government of Bangladesh of IRRI’s support on rice R&D to sustainably increase productivity of the rice-based agri-food systems and help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"We are emphasizing the development of different varieties of rice tolerant to salt and drought to increase rice production in less-favorable areas and make food security sustainable. Scientists in the country have already developed many good varieties of rice.  Better varieties are needed to produce more rice from less land. We want IRRI's cooperation in this matter,” said Razzaque.

At the same time, IRRI delegates and the Minister talked about the release of Golden Rice, a variety of rice biofortified with Vitamin A as a means to complement efforts to curb Vitamin A deficiency.

The Minister said that the Golden Rice is currently under consideration for regulatory approval in the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. He also said that some civil society groups have raised concerns about the potential impact of the release of Golden Rice on agricultural exports.

During the meeting, Meah briefed the Minister about the state-of-the-art research facilities including speed breeding, grain quality analysis, climate change, and soil health management at the IRRI South Asia Regional Centre (IRRI-SARC) in Varanasi, India as well as the opportunities for scientists from Bangladesh to use these facilities and conduct advanced research activities.  The Minister then expressed his interest in using the facilities offered by ISARC.

Meah also extended IRRI’s invitation to the Agriculture Minister, Agriculture Secretary, and other senior policymakers to visit IRRI Headquarters in the Philippines to learn about frontier rice research and innovations. The IRRI delegation also put forward the idea of inviting the Prime Minister of Bangladesh as the chief guest in the upcoming International Rice Congress to be held in the Philippines in 2023.

The IRRI delegation also briefed the Minister on the Council for Partnership on Rice Research in Asia (CORRA) meeting to be held in Bangladesh in November 2022.

The Agriculture Secretary Md. Sayedul Islam, Additional Secretary Kamalaranjan Das, Director General of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute Md. Shahjahan Kabir, IRRI Bangladesh Representative Humnath Bhandari were also present at the meeting.