A farmer dumps his potatoes on the street in protest against the falling prices of the produce while policemen stand guard, in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka yesterday. Photo: Star
Nearly 300 potato farmers gathered in the city yesterday and dumped their unsold produce on the street in a protest against the falling prices.
The farmers criticised the government for not taking adequate steps to ensure fair prices of the popular vegetable that is selling far below the production cost.
They also demanded that the government buy potato from them directly and compensate the farmers who incurred losses for selling the item at Tk 1-5 a kilogram against a production cost of more than Tk 6.
Bangladesh Krishak Samity, a platform of farmers, organsied the rally in front of the National Press Club.
"Allocate money from the Prime Minister's special fund to set up ccentres at grassroots for buying potato directly from the growers," President of the association Morshed Ali said.
Many farmers cannot store their potato for a longer period as they will have to sell the produce to pay off their loans that they took for the cultivation of the crop, he said.
Many of the seven lakh farmers in the country are on the brink of bankruptcy due to the throwaway prices of the vegetable caused by a supply glut.
In November and December last year, many farmers in the north put harvests on hold due to shutdowns and blockades.
Cold storage operators also could not clear stocks in the wake of political unrest in the run-up to the January 5 national election.
But when the political situation improved after the polls, farmers began harvesting potato and cold storage operators started releasing old stocks.
These resulted in a huge supply causing a sharp fall in the prices.
"Farmers now sell potato for Tk 1.30 a kg in the north. Those who stored potato in cold storages are unable to pay rents," said Kazi Sazzad Zahir Chandan, general secretary of the farmers' platform.
The government estimates that the total production of potato may increase by around one lakh tonnes to 87 lakh tonnes this season.
Of the total yield, 60-65 lakh tonnes are consumed annually, 10 lakh tonnes are used as seeds, and 40,000 tonnes are exported, while the rest are surplus.
In a bid to increase the prices, the government said it is trying to boost potato exports by helping exporters find new markets and easing export barriers. According to the agriculture ministry, 30,000 tonnes of potato have been exported so far in the current fiscal year.
However, exports are yet to impact the prices, while retailers in the city markets are cashing in on the supply glut. Potato sells at Tk 10-12 a kg at the retail level in Dhaka.