Bangladesh: Reversals in Bangladesh potato exports
Bangladesh’ transition from a deficit agricultural output to a surplus one has not necessarily gone smoothly all the time. In the case of potato cultivation, a gross anomaly has been created over the years.
Their farmers’ sincere toil and effort given to grow bumper crops can be frustrated by bad, antiquated policies and planning on the part of higher authorities.
For years together this all-important vegetable, second only to staples in importance as a component of meals, is grown to more than 2.0 million in excess of the country’s requirement roughly estimated at 8.0 million. The price of potatoes remains mostly - except during the early harvest of a new season- so low that the growers incur losses. For the past two consecutive years farmers were compelled to feed their unsold potato to cattle. In some areas farmers did not bother to release their stock from cold storages because the market price of potato was lower than the carrying costs and other expenses involved.
The policymakers, however, have been preaching for long that the surplus potato will be exported to destinations not tried before. In fact, a new market opened in Russia where potatoes are considered a staple. A few other countries like Vietnam were likely destinations as well. In 2014, record amount of potatoes, valued at $35 million, could be exported. The following year, exports garnered $33 million. Then the export registered a sharp decline in the year 2016 because importers like Russia, Vietnam and Indonesia did not accept the produce from Bangladesh on phytosanitary grounds. The EU earlier imposed bans on agro items on the same grounds.
In the case of potato exports, people at the policy level have let farmers down on two counts. First, they have not introduced new and improved varieties of potato that can easily pass the new, required phytosanitary tests. Secondly, they failed to determine how much land has to be brought under traditional potato cultivation.
According to an article on thefinancialexpress.com.bd¸ lapses in planning have clearly been problematic for Bangladeshi potato exports. The volume of potato export declined by more than half within four years and the earnings from it dipped to as low as $ 11.26 million last fiscal year.