The government is planning to set up a separate economic zone for the fisheries sector in order to promote the fish processing industry, said Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim yesterday. 

The minister made the comments after stakeholders of the fisheries industry called for establishing a special zone for the industry at a workshop.

The workshop, styled “Fisheries Subsidies in the Context of LDC Graduation and Way Forward”, was organised by the Support to Sustainable Graduation Project (SSGP) of the Economic Relations Division (ERD) of the Ministry of Finance at the NEC conference room in the capital, said a press release.

“The government would provide all kinds of support, including land acquisition support in setting up the economic zone,” said Karim.

“The success of such economic zones depends on spontaneous investment from private entrepreneurs.”

The minister said the government had initiated a project to encourage deep-sea fishing but at the same time, adopting a slew of strict measures to discourage overfishing.

The government would provide all kinds of support, including land acquisition support, in setting up the economic zone

The workshop was organised to identify the next course of action for continuing fisheries subsidies in the aftermath of Bangladesh’s graduation from the group of least-developed countries against the backdrop of the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement of Fisheries Subsidies, according to the ERD.

“There are huge untapped opportunities in the blue economy sector of the country,” said Nahid Rashid, secretary to the fisheries and livestock ministry.

She called for increased public and private investment for tapping such opportunities.

A comprehensive study needs to be carried out on the potential impact of the withdrawal of fishery subsidies, said Md Sameer Sattar, president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

On the findings of the study, Bangladesh will be able to actively participate in the WTO negotiation and can raise the issue at the next ministerial conference, he said.

Kazi Belayet Hossain, president of the Bangladesh Frozen Food Exporters Association, called for duty waiver on the import of fisheries instruments.

He also called for further value-addition and skill enhancement in this sector while emphasising the need for providing bonded warehouse facilities to the sector.

The government should gradually eliminate the cash incentives by 2026, said Md Hafizur Rahman, a member of the Bangladesh Competition Commission, while delivering the keynote speech.

Rahman recommended developing a reporting system of catch in a systematic way and exploring options for using innovative non-actionable subsidies in the sector.

Sharifa Khan, secretary to the ERD, recommended the formulation of a roadmap to tap the opportunities existing in the blue economy sector.

Khondokar Mahbubul Haque, director general of the department of fisheries, Sayeed Mahmood Belal Haider, chairman of the Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation, Md Zulfikar Ali, director of the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute, and Farid Aziz, project director of the SSGP, also spoke. 

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