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Potato price may go further up

Acreage of cultivation set to decline this year

Yasir Wardad | January 02, 2019 00:00:00

The acreage of potato cultivation is set to decline this year as farmers are switching to other crops after witnessing severe losses last year.

As a result, potatoes might be pricier this year, experts said.

Lower production of the crop, however, will help farmers get handsome price for their produce in the current winter.

New potatoes are now selling at Tk 18-24 (granola and courage) and Tk 28- 30 (deshi red) per kg at growers' end in Nilphamari, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Panchagarh and Gaibandha districts which was Tk 12-18 a kg in the corresponding period of last year, according to the Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM).

The crop was selling at Tk 35-50 a kg in Dhaka and Chattogram.

The stored potatoes were still selling at Tk 22-26 a kg in the cities.

The trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) data showed the current potato price is 15-18 per cent higher than that of a year ago.

Kamal Hossain, a farmer at Shatibari in Rangpur, told the FE over mobile phone that he has produced early potatoes on two bighas of land which was five bighas last year.

He said: "Less acreage means low production and it helps us making 30 per cent higher profit this year."

“I got 1.5 tonnes of deshi potatoes from my lands and sold 80 per cent of the crop at Tk 34,000 per tonne,” he said.

Like him, most of his fellow farmers either reduced land share for potatoes or totally shifted to vegetable and maize this season as they incurred loss of Tk 8,000-8,500 per bigha last year, he said.

He also pointed out that most of the farmers were not eager to grow seasonal potatoes which could be harvested in February-March period for hoarding.

Aminul Islam, another farmer in Nilphamari Sadar upazila said they got only Tk 1.8-2.5 for one kg potatoes last year against the production cost of Tk 6.0-7.0 a kg.

"But we are expecting a good price for seasonal potatoes in February-March this year amid declining trend of potato cultivation area," he said.

A good number of potato-growing lands have turned into maize farms this year, he informed.

Sources in Gaibanda, Bogura, Rajshahi, Dinajpur and Munshiganj said that the other major potato- growing districts, also found same scenario of potato farming this year.

However, the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) is still optimist about getting another bumper crop this year.

Mizanur Rahman, director of Horticulture Wing of DAE, told the FE that area might decline by 4.0-5.0 per cent, but overall production will increase amid good weather condition which may help raise yields.

He said last year potatoes were cultivated on an all-time high of 0.5 million hectares of land.

Farmers in many districts got low yield last fiscal year amid water-logging due to the flooding in the later part of 2017.

Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) President Ghulam Rahman said it is good news that the farmers are getting better price, but the consumers should not be pinched.

He said there is 50-90 per cent price gap between farm level and Dhaka's retail now as big traders and retailers are benefitting most from potato trade.

Md Jahir Uddin, one of the leading potato exporters in the country, said declining trend in production is not a good sign.

The government has set a priority on boosting exports with the view to becoming a middle income country, he noted.

He said potatoes have a huge market demand across the globe "but we couldn't explore the opportunity for lack of export infrastructures".

Incentives for farmers and exporters should also be increased, he said.

Export of the crop should be increased significantly which would contribute considerably to the prosperity of farmers and the country's economy, he added.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the country grew 10.5 million tonnes of the carbohydrate-rich crop in the FY '18.

The demand for potatoes is 7.2-7.5 million tonnes annually, according to the directorate general of food.

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