Bangladesh: Peasants fear production cost of potatoes may not be recovered
Potato growers of Bogura district are worried that they might not be able to recover the production cost due to a sudden drop in prices of the vegetable in the ongoing harvesting season.
Potato prices dropped to Tk. 500 per maund from Tk. 1,000, depending on the variety and quality, in around three weeks, farmers and traders of the largest potatoe market, Mahasthagarh, said.
Each maund (40kg) of the red (local name "pakri") variety of potato is now selling for around Tk. 450-500, while it was Tk. 800-1,000 about three weeks ago. Besides, a maund of the granola and cardinal varieties is selling for around Tk. 600 at the farmers’ level.
During a recent visit to the Mahasthangarh vegetable market in the district, this correspondent saw frustration on the faces of potato farmers due to the sudden drop in prices. Many farmers expressed anxiety about meeting the expenditure for cultivating upcoming crops, and some growers are wondering how to repay their loans.
Usually, small and marginal farmers take loan from NGOs or local money lenders to meet the expenses of cultivating crops. Many of them take fertilizers and pesticides from local shops, with a promise to pay the money after harvesting the crops. After harvesting, they repay the loans and use the rest of the money for meeting their daily needs and cultivating crops.
“I cultivated the diamond variety on 66 decimals of land, spending about Tk. 40,000. I could not recover my expenditure as I sold potatoes from the field at Tk. 500 per maund. Traders asked me to sell potatoes from my field at Tk. 900 per maund about three weeks ago, but I didn’t agree at that time, hoping for a price hike,” said Fazlur Rahman Mondol, 50, of Mahasthangarh village in Shibganj upazila. “I will get around 80 maunds (one maund=40 kg) of potatoes at the production cost of around Tk. 9.75 per kg, but I have to sell it at a rate below the production cost,” he added.
Abul Hossain, 70, of Shekerkola village said he has cultivated the cardinal variety of potato on one acre, spending about Tk. 70,000. “I cannot sell my potatoes for even Tk. 600 per maund due to a shortage of buyers. I have to incur huge losses as the price will not increase,” he added.
“I took loan from the local NGO, TMSS, to cultivate potato and it will be tough for me to repay it. It will also be very hard to manage the expenses for pumpkin cultivation in the upcoming season due to the loss I have incurred,” he said.
Like Abul Hossain, several farmers also expressed their anxiety about how to repay their loans, or manage expenses for cultivation of the next crop. Potato farmers of the area cultivate pumpkin or maize after reaping potato, they said.
The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) of Bogura, Md. Abul Kashem Azad, said potato was cultivated on 53,350 hectares, against the target of 55,445 hectares, with a production target of 13.87 lakh tonnes of potato.