Potato acreage shrinks to 7-year low
Potato acreage has declined to a seven-year low this season as many farmers switched to other crops, particularly mustard, as the production cost of the oilseed is lower than the tuber while its prices are more attractive.
The total area for cultivating potato, one of the most highly consumed vegetables in Bangladesh, dropped 2 per cent to 4.55 lakh hectares this season from 4.64 lakh tonnes a year ago, according to provisional data from the Department of Agricultural Extension.
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics data showed that the latest acreage of potato is the lowest since fiscal year 2016-17.
The reflection of the reduced acreage is visible in the market through prices, which remained higher this season compared to a year ago.
In Dhaka, consumers could buy the tuber at Tk 22-28 per kilogramme yesterday, up 16 per cent from a year ago, showed prices data compiled by the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.
"Farmers are getting higher prices this year too," said Zuhurul Islam, a farmer in Joypurhat, a potato producing district in the country's northwest.
Freshly harvested potato, namely the Asterix variety, is being sold at Tk 500 per maund (40 kilogrammes) while it was around Tk 300 a year ago.
"The crop condition is good, and yields will be higher, but overall production is expected to decline for reduced acreage. This is why farmers are getting profitable prices. Farmers and traders will profit this year if the government does not intervene," he added.
Islam has cultivated potato on 15 bighas land this year, down from 25 bighas last year.
"This is because the production cost of potato has increased. The cost of seeds and fertilizer was higher this year. So, I have switched to mustard," he said.
Islam went on to say that his production cost for potato would be Tk 30,000 per bigha this season whereas that of mustard is around Tk 6,000 for the same area.
Mohammad Ali, a farmer at Sherpur, another northwestern district, has a different reason for reducing potato cultivation.
He has grown maize on the land where he grew potato last year to profit from increased prices for the grain that is used mainly in feed mills.
"Many others have shifted to maize too," he added.
Bangladesh, the world's seventh largest potato producer, bagged 1.01 crore tonnes of the vegetable in fiscal year 2021-22, up 2.6 per cent from the previous year.
Apart from use for seed, most of the tuber is consumed locally as annual export is below 100,000 tonnes, according to official data.
On the other hand, Md Monirul Islam, chief scientific officer of the Tuber Crops Research Centre under the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, said production would not be affected this year.
"Crop condition is good in the field. Besides, we have not seen any natural calamity this cultivation season. As far as we know, there is no disease attack this year either," he added.
Md Mostafizur Rahman, member director for seed and horticulture of the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC), echoed the same.
"Farmers have planted some high yielding and exportable varieties of potato this year. So, production is unlikely to fall," he said.
The BADC sold 37,000 tonnes of seed potato for this cultivation season. Of that amount, it had to sell 17,000 tonnes at reduced prices amid slack demand among farmers.