Bangladesh: Potato growers in a panic for price slump
Potato growers of Thakurgaon and Panchagarh districts are distraught over apprehensions of incurring huge losses for a second year in a row as the market has seen a sharp fall in prices.
Aiming to make a quick buck, growers cultivate early varieties of the tuber crop that usually sell for between Tk 25 and Tk 40 per kilogramme during the initial harvesting period from late November to mid-January.
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But amid the ongoing harvesting season, farmers are having to sell each kilogramme of potato for about Tk 6 to Tk 10, which is lower than the production cost.
The growers cultivate BARI Alu-7 (diamond), BARI Alu-13 (granula), BARI Alu-25 (Esterik) and Cardinal for early harvest to reap extra profits, said sources.
Market experts said the situation had stemmed from a lack of buyers from southern districts, including Dhaka and Narayanganj.
Besides, an abundant supply of other winter vegetables at fair prices has led to decreasing demand for the freshly harvested potatoes, leading to lower prices.
During a recent visit to different villages in the two districts, this correspondent saw that harvests were bringing little cheer to growers struggling to recover production costs due to the drastic fall of prices.
Samsher Ali of Fakhdanpur village in Thakurgaon sadar upazila said he cultivated the BARI Alu-13 (granula) variety on one bigha of land at a cost of about Tk 22,000.
His efforts yielded 2,100 kilogrammes of potato that sold for Tk 7 per kilogramme. As such, he earned Tk 14,700, incurring a loss of Tk 7,300. However last year, he had made a profit of Tk 20,000.
Makbuler Rahman of Salondar village said he cultivated the diamond variety on six-bighas of land investing Tk 1.28 lakh.
He was able to harvest 3,900 kilogrammes of potatoes from two bighas, which sold at Tk 6.50 per kilogramme.
If the current price trend continues for two more weeks, Rahman worries he will incur huge losses this season.
Several other farmers said they had to sow potato seeds two times this season as the first batch had rotted away due to uneven rainfall.
Makbul Hossain, a potato trader of Thakurgaon, said as the demand for the vegetable in Dhaka and other southern districts was very little this time of the season, prices have dropped.
Abu Hossain, deputy director of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Thakurgaon, said growers cultivated the tuber crop on 27,677 hectares of land against a target of 28,515 hectares with a production target of 679, 798 tonnes.
Of the total land being used, early variety potatoes are being grown on about 8,000 hectares, with 102,713 tonnes of the crop having already been harvested from 5,478 hectares.
Last year, growers produced 741,226 tonnes by cultivating potatoes on 28,515 hectares of land.
In Panchagarh, the DAE set a target to cultivate potatoes on 9,950 hectares of land to produce 207,259 tonnes.
Growers have cultivated the tuber crop on 9,870 hectares of land in the area and harvested 8,555 tonnes of potatoes from 455 hectares already.
Last year, 206,734 tonnes of potatoes were produced by cultivating 9,950 hectares of land, sources said.
Abu Hossain said the market price of potato would increase once last year’s stocks were consumed.
"If potato export is increased, it would have a positive impact on the country’s economy along with changing farmers’ fate as well," Hossain added.