An early potato harvest has brought fortune to the farmers in Nilphamari district as traders are paying exceptionally high prices for the kitchen staple amid increased demand in the country's major cities.
The prevailing situation is unlike past years, when farmers faced consecutive losses as previous stocks of potatoes ran out before they could restock during the harvest season starting in January, according to farmers.
Besides, there was a mad dash among consumers to stock up on potatoes in the March-May period last year, when the government imposed a two-month 'general holiday' starting on March 26 in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.
And this led to a shortage of potatoes, the farmers said.
February-March is the perfect harvest time for potatoes since they mature 90 days after sowing, said Habibur Rahman, the designated agriculture officer of Kishoreganj upazila.
"But the farmers who harvested early in December will profit, which is good since we work for the farmers' benefit," he added.
During a recent visit to various potato producing villages in the district, this correspondent found trucks bound for Dhaka's Karwan Bazar waiting to be loaded alongside the fields.
Aminur Rahman, a farmer of Putimari village, hired a group of day labourers to harvest the potatoes he cultivated on five bighas of land. Meanwhile, another group of workers were engaged in weighing, packing and loading the tuber crop onto trucks.
The whole process was being done as swiftly as possible since the traders were in a hurry to reach the wholesale market in Dhaka before dawn.
"I started cultivating potatoes on the last day of October in 2020 and spent Tk 1.25 lakh as production cost to get 10,200 kilogrammes (kg) of potato after only 52 days," Rahman said.
"Now, traders asked me to sell the harvest for Tk 4.08 lakh at the rate of Tk 40 per kg and I agreed," he added.
Emdadul Islam, a farmer in Kundapukur village of Sadar upazila who cultivated potato on three bighas of land, said that selling the vegetable at Tk 40 per kg was an overwhelming benefit for producers as in previous years they got just Tk 15-20 per kg.
Osman Gani, a farmer of Porakot village in Kishoreganj, said that he would be able to build a brick house by selling the potatoes he cultivated on ten bighas of land.
Officials of the local Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) said that farmers have already harvested potatoes from 4,000 hectares of the targeted 22,500 hectares to produce 5.90 lakh tonnes.
Obaidur Rahmam Mondol, deputy director of the DAE in Nilphamari, said potatoes that are harvested early cannot be preserved throughout the year as it is consumed instantly.
"But it will not hamper the production target as farmers can cultivate the tuber crop on the same land twice in the same season," Mondol added.