The agriculture sector employs more than 40 percent of the country's labour force, but contributes only 13.60 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Bangladesh, and this figure has been falling during the current decade.
The World Bank said the sector is lagging behind in Bangladesh because of the failure to create business in agriculture, the lack of an appropriate policy framework, and the extra time taken in decision making.
In the World Bank's recent report titled "Enabling the Business of Agriculture 2019", Bangladesh held 75th position in enabling the business of agriculture index.
In the index, Bangladesh achieved only 44.47 point out of 100, which is the lowest in South Asia, but above that for Afghanistan.
France was at the top of the ranking securing 93.7 points followed by Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Spain.
Liberia is at the bottom of the ranking with 16.42 points following Haiti, Cameroon, Iraq and Togo.
India was placed in top position in the South Asian region in enabling the business of agriculture by earning 62.23 points. while the global position of the country is 54th.
Among other countries in this region, Sri Lanka had 50.16 points, Nepal 48.97 and Pakistan 48.87, and were ranked above Bangladesh.
With 31.52 points, Afghanistan is placed in the 90th position in the index, with the poorest performance among South Asian countries.
The report said that farming is going to become more challenging globally due to the declining trend in farm size. Currently, 84 percent of all farms in the world have less than two hectares of land.
The report also said that about 570 million farms employ an estimated 28 percent of the world's workforce, the majority of whom are poor workers from the world's rural areas.
According to the report, since July 2016, 47 out of 101 countries implemented reforms in 67 regulatory areas.
In the report, the World Bank expressed disappointment over the slow reforms in the agriculture sector of Bangladesh.
The report said Bangladesh took only two initiatives regarding seed supply and food trading to reform the agriculture sector since 2016-18.
However, Bangladesh made it easier to trade agricultural products by publishing the official fee schedule of phytosanitary certificates online and brought it under legislation, said the report.
The country also enacted a new seed act that provides tools to improve the country's capacity to certify seeds. It allows the government to delegate seed certification activities to third parties including the private sector.
The report also said the Seeds Amendment Act increased the maize yield by more than 180 percent from 1994 to 2010, and raised the number of registered maize varieties to 98.
The report said that Bangladesh scored 47.08 points in the registering fertiliser index, because the process requires 945 days in the country to get a registration for a new fertiliser product. Meanwhile in Uruguay, the country with the best regulatory performance, the process takes only 11 days.
Bangladesh achieved only 18.52 points out of 100 in the supplying seed index because there is no practice of registering new varieties of cereal.
Among other indexes, Bangladesh obtained 20 points in securing water, 49 points in registering machinery, 56.67 points in sustaining livestock, 60 points in protecting plant health and 43.66 points in the trading food index.
Economist and former director general of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, Dr Mustafa K Mujeri, identified lack of innovation, diversification, adaptation and awareness as serious problems behind the poor business environment in the agriculture sector of Bangladesh.
He told The Business Standard, "As farming in Bangladesh mainly focus on rice, and the cultivation method is based on traditional technology, total production in agriculture is not rising at the expected level."
In addition, he also said the market size and price level of rice is relatively low compared to the global market of wheat or maize.
In order to retain the income of the labour force in the agriculture sector, importance should be given to the production of high value crops. The government should encourage the use of new technologies, he added.
The latest labour force survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics revealed that 24.7 million people are employed in the agriculture sector of Bangladesh, which is about 40.6 percent of the country's total labour force.
The total value of the products from this sector reached Tk3,21,092.7 crore in the 2019 fiscal year, up from Tk.1,10,990.3 crore in the 2010 fiscal year. The value increase of this sector's product was low compared to that of other sector's yields.
The production of the agriculture sector at constant price reached Tk1,44,565.9 crore from Tk84,904.2 crore in the same period.
The agriculture sector's contribution to the gross domestic product of the country reduced from 15.35 percent to 13.60 percent just within four fiscal years.
The growth of the sector has been fluctuating from 2.79 to 4.19 percent for the last four fiscal years, while the overall growth of the economy varied from 7.11 percent to 8.13 percent.